Two different real estate developers are interested in investing millions of dollars in Gainesville, — a situation which indicates Gainesville needs housing.
“Business tells me that we do not have suitable rental or buy-able properties for young professionals working for local corporations,” Gainesville Economic Development Corporation executive director Arleene Loyd said. “There are not enough properties.”
“The fact that we have two different developers interested in investing millions of dollars shows that we need housing,” Gainesville city manager Barry Sullivan said.
However, one developer claims Gainesville can only support one high end apartment building complex, citing a third party commissioned study.
McClintock Apartment Communities, a division of McClintock Homes started construction on Phase 1, of a new multi-family rental development called The Heritage at Black Hill Farm located south of Highway 51. Developers recently closed on an additional 35 acres, bringing the project to approximately 200 acres. Phase 1 will have 43 residential lots.
The plan includes 160 homes, 125 town homes, up to 300 apartment units, a three acre commercial site and an agricultural area, separate from the housing that will provide a green space.
The second developer is Orison Holdings, working with The Martino Group, a real estate family that’s been in business in Denton since the 1930s. Orison Holdings submitted a bid to the Gainesville City Council on March 17 to lease the 9.5 acre Locke Field for an apartment complex, holding between 140 to 225 units. According to reports, Orison Holdings plans to spend between $10 to $16 million on high end apartments. Included is a fenced parking area with some covered parking sections, and automatic gates.
With Locke Field located adjacent the I-35 northbound exit onto California Street, city leaders hope to revitalize the downtown area, making it more vibrant with the Locke Field proposed apartment complex.
However, the Gainesville City Council tabled the lease proposal, pending questions, regarding the recent study indicating Gainesville can only support one high end apartment building complex.
Telephone calls to The Martino Group were not returned by press time
“We commissioned a study last year, regarding the viability of an apartment community in Gainesville by a professional third party,” Lisa Dritschler of McClintock Homes said in a telephone interview. “The conclusions were that an apartment project was viable for Gainesville; however, the current market would only be able to support one project of the magnitude that we’re doing. Our complex consists of 300 units. This is consistent with what we presented to Planning and Zoning in May 2014 when we filed our permanent plat for approval before the RFP for was even published by the city manager.”
Mike Todd of McClintock Homes stated to city council members in September 2014 about the intended apartment building construction.
“We’ve been very transparent that we were doing the apartments,” Dritschler said in a telephone interview. “All we’re asking is for the council and staff to do what’s good for the city of Gainesville. They need to commission a study to determine the best use of the land, so they can get their best use and best price for the property. You can’t do that behind closed doors.”
Dritschler claims the boards from Planning and Zoning, Gainesville Economic Development Corporation and the Parks and Recreation Board were unaware of the proposal for the lease of Locke Field; only city manager Barry Sullivan and the City Council.
Dritschler noted that part of the 2010 resolution for the leasing of Locke Field states any proceeds from a lease agreement are to go to the city parks. “How do you have that on the table without the parks board having any knowledge of it or your city staff?” Dritschler said. “My point is you can’t do it behind closed doors. This time include all these interested parties. Why not include the chamber and Main Street committee in the process. If you’re going to take away an icon of the past, be sure you do well for the people you represent. If they put together a committee, if they commission a study and that it turns out an apartment complex is the best use of that property, then great. They did their due diligence and all parties have been involved. That’s all we’re asking is do what’s best for the city.”
Dritschler is also concerned about the annual rental fee in the proposed lease agreement for Locke Field. The lease states, the tenant will pay a one-time rental installment of $2,500 on the commencement date and an additional annual rental of $100, during the primary term of the lease.
Sullivan indicated it would be council members who would decide either to accept or reject the terms of the lease. He said Locke Field is city property and not EDC property. “The EDC is not allowed to help with housing financing unless it is an affordable housing program, which this is not,” Sullivan said. “One deal has nothing to do with the other deal. We’ve been going out for proposals since 2012. We’ve been trying to get things down there that would help improve the appearance of the area. It is specifically stated in our goals for the city.”
Sullivan said the city has been trying to find “someone we can work a deal with.”
“The council has to decide since there are now two options for multi-family, we have to look at how this lease will impact the city as a whole.”
The Orison Holdings’ proposal for a lease on Locke Field is the third group, since 2012 that has approached the city about developing the land. Bid proposals have been published in The Gainesville Daily Register each time.
Sullivan cited an older study, indicating the market could use approximately 150 more units in addition to the McClintock Homes.
“They (McClintock Homes) own their own land,” Sullivan said. “They are looking to develop their land. We have been working with Black Hill to develop this. The city has been doing everything we can to help them out. They (Black Hill) seem to think council is trying to choose between these two options. I don’t know which way council will vote on this.”
Orison Holdings seeks a tax abatement with the city for their development. Sullivan said for a tax abatement to be considered, a lease must be in place.
“Just because you ask for one doesn’t mean you’re going to get it,” Sullivan said “The lease does not tie the city or anyone else in to providing a tax abatement. That’s not legal. You have to go through another tax abatement process.”
The Gainesville City Council will meet again April 7. The agenda will be completed on Monday. At that time it will be known if the Locke Field lease proposal will be considered again.