Eight-story mixed-use development proposed off NW 13th Street

Published: Friday, April 1, 2011 at 4:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 at 9:58 p.m.

A New York City developer is planning to build an eight-story apartment complex with 168 units, ground-floor retail, office space and a five-story parking garage at 309/319 NW 13th St. across from Krispy Kreme.

The high-rise would replace a small strip that includes Orange and Blue Textbooks and the Army National Guard Office as well as a vacant car wash.

The City Plan Board voted unanimously March 24 to recommend that the Gainesville City Commission approve a land-use amendment to create a planned-use district and rezone three parcels to planned development. The items likely will be heard at the City Commission's May 5 meeting, according to city planning staff.

With so many vacant apartments in Gainesville and incomplete developments nearby, neighbors questioned the demand and financial viability for such a project at a community workshop in July.

The property is catty-corner to the University Corners project, which has been sitting as a vacant field since 2006. Construction resumed recently on the half-built Stadium Club project across from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium under new ownership.

The developer of the proposed eight-story apartment complex, Rick Birdoff of RD Management LLC, said in an interview this week that his project is smaller and more manageable than University Corners and comes after the financial markets have improved. Most of the project will be self-financed, he said at the workshop.

RD Management bought the property in 2008 for $3.5 million.

The company owns or manages 200 retail properties throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, with tenants that include Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Kmart, Sears and JCPenney. In Florida, it developed a Lowe's Home Improvement with outparcels in Orlando and a Regal Cinema movie theater in Tampa.

In its application to city planning staff, RD Management said there is still a demand for luxury rentals within walking distance of campus, though it would put more pressure on older complexes to renovate.

Depending on the approval process, Birdoff said he hopes to start the construction process by the end of the year or the beginning of 2012, and take 12-14 months to build.

According to the application, plans call for 168 apartments of one to four bedrooms, 26,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 20,000 square feet of office space that could be converted to apartments depending on demand.

RD Management said retail space could fill a need in the area for a grocer or a mid-sized retailer, with options including a sit-down restaurant, a computer/electronics retailer or a home improvement store.

Birdoff said the company is in talks with several people, including grocery operators.

The office space could fill a need for faculty from the University of Florida and Santa Fe College's downtown campus, he said.

The application says the project "will encourage renewed investment and redevelopment interest for the few vacant and many underutilized parcels that dominate the entire Northwest 13th Street corridor."

The building would rise eight stories along Northwest 13th Street and step down to a parking garage with a maximum 60-foot height on the east side adjacent to a residential neighborhood.

Bruce Hawkins of Newberry owns a house near the property. In a letter to the city, he expressed concerns about losing the residential feel of the neighborhood because of light pollution, noise pollution, increased traffic in a residential district, water runoff, Dumpsters and waste, and parking issues.

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