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Posted: Thursday, September 26th 2013 at 12:49pm

Gainesville Council hears about convention center feasibility

By Marc Eggers Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Linda Wilson and Ken Bleakly
GAINESVILLE The Gainesville City Council listed closely as the results of a feasibility study concerning the possible development of a downtown convention center and hotel facility were presented by representatives from Key Advisors Hospitality Consulting and the Bleakly Advisory Group.

The study was conducted over the summer months and was funded by a $25,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

If Council perceived from that study that there were strong factors for continuing their plans for a convention center complex, then the city would be responsible for funding any further studies that would be required.

Council members complimented Linda Wilson of Key Advisors and Ken Bleakly of his namesake's group for their thorough and detailed analysis of the matter following a 30-minute Power Point presentation.

"It's generally what we were hoping to hear. It's good news," commented Councilwoman Ruth Bruner.

"We've already got the Tax Allocation District and the Opportunity Zone in place," City Manager Kip Padgett added. Padgett was addressing the recommendation that the project could qualify for funding if certain designations (such as TAD and OZ) were in place.

Under primary consideration for such a development is the vacant site at the south end of the pedestrian bridge crossing Jesse Jewell Parkway. At nearly ten acres it would more than provide for the minimum three acres recommended in the feasibility study.

In summation, Bleakly said that the economic factors for the development were good at this time. He recommended that if the Council was interested in continuing their efforts to bring the project to fruition, sooner would be better than later. "If you want to go ahead with the project...prior to the next three to six months would be a good time to put the RFP (Request for Proposals) out."

"We don't know when the next down-cycle in hotel financing (might occur)," Bleakly said. "When that window closes in hotels it closes! It's not like other forms of real estate."

Rubbing his chin as if deep in thought Councilman George Wangemann said, "You included the lake (Lake Lanier) in this whole thing. I don't know that Gainesville has really capitalized on the lake as an asset or resource, but I think your proposal here moves us in that direction and that's a very positive thing."

The City Council now will mull over the recommendations made by the feasibility study and determine shortly their next step.

Council felt that the $25,000 grant for the study was money well spent and that knowing in advance the potential for profits or problems was judicious. "The Field of Dreams 'dream' does not apply in this case," Wangemann said with a laugh, because it's not always the case that "if you build it they will come."


CITY TO ENDORSE COUNTY CONSTRUCTION OF RESERVOIR AT GLADES FARM

Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall read a Joint Resolution and Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Water Supplies to the City Council showing the city's support during the construction permitting process for a reservoir at Glades Farm in northern Hall County.

Randall explained that despite past differences of opinion between the city and the county on the proposed 850-acre reservoir about 10 miles northeast of the city, the decision was made by both sides to unite their efforts at this time and work out their differences down the road.

"We don't really have a problem with Glades, if they (Hall County) want to proceed with doing it, we just don't want it to be paid for on the backs of water customers of the Gainesville Public Utilities Department," Kelly said.

"What you're really agreeing to," Randall explained, "is that we'll support the permit applications."

The Memorandum of Understanding will be subject to final approval at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting.
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