City tests interest in downtown parking lot

The parking lot across from Loosey's in Downtown Gainesville on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, May 16, 2014 at 8:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 16, 2014 at 8:07 p.m.

Gainesville will again test private-sector interest in a downtown parking lot that the city has eyed sporadically for development for the past decade.

In April, the City Commission unanimously voted to declare parking lot 10, a square city block on the western side of downtown, as surplus property. That decision will allow staff to seek proposals from firms interested in competing to acquire the city-owned site.

Lot 10 is close to an acre in size and bounded by Southwest Second Street and First Street and Southwest First Avenue and Second Avenue. It's now a leased parking lot that is about one-third full on most weekdays.

The city will put out the request for proposals possibly by the end of May, said Economic Development Director Erik Bredfeldt.

The expected criteria will likely include their proposed purchase price for the land, which a city appraisal valued at $760,000, any financial assistance or incentives sought from city government, including the Community Redevelopment Agency or other public help for such things as infrastructure or parking.

Responses are also expected to include a projected economic impact, including the number of jobs expected, the financial resources of the developers and their experience.

Proposals may be evaluated on how consistent they are with the highest and best uses of the property, which, according to the city's appraisal, is a mixed-use development that includes commercial and residential.

The city's efforts to see Lot 10 developed date back to at least 2005. Several years ago, it was the planned site of Gainesville Greens, a 12-story condominium development that died in 2008 during the economic downturn.

After that, the city turned toward a potential hotel/conference center after a consultant said the area lacked a facility large enough to draw in big conferences.

The city unsuccessfully sought tourism development tax funds from the County Commission.

In 2012, two firms responded to a city invitation to negotiate on a hotel/conference center: Michigan-based Acquest Realty Advisors, and a Savannah, Georgia-based limited liability corporation known as Gainesville Hotel & Conference Center.

Each sought a substantial incentive package from the city. The City Commission ended that process in December 2012.

Currently, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce is advocating for a conference center several miles away in the West 38 development just west of the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center. That project's developer, NP International of Minnesota, is expected to seek public funding in the form of tourism tax monies.

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