Developer Makes New Offer In Downtown Tallahassee Project

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There's a new twist for a controversial downtown Tallahassee project.

Developers now say they'll build a parking lot with their own money along with a hotel on the corner of Tennessee and Monroe.

Under a previous proposal, the tax funded Community Redevelopment Agency or CRA was considering paying for the garage.

However, Gary Yordon, a representative for the developer says they'll ask the city for more time to make a decision on Wednesday because the CRA hasn't made one yet.

"This is a really important block for us," said Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer. "It's a really important corner and I think we need to be very careful with what goes there," he said. "We don't need to do anything that costs taxpayers money and whatever is approved there is appropriate," said Ziffer. "I'm ready to move on," he said.

Ziffer points out there have already been several extensions for that project.

He says it may be time for another developer to look at that site.

The vote on the extension is scheduled to take place at Wednesday's city commission meeting.

By: Andy Alcock
September 9, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - In one corner of Monroe and Tennessee, you have the Gateway Project currently under construction.

It features office space and a Walgreens.

In another corner across the street, there's currently a city owned parking lot.

The owners of the A Loft Hotel next door want to build a Hampton Inn there.

"I think it's the right project," said project lobbyist Gary Yordon. "I think the timing is good for it," he said. "But government will have the opportunity to make that decision," said Yordon.

But the Gateway developers oppose the plan.

Their attorney David Theriaque points out the original mixed use plan, like the Gateway Project, called for retail and office space he says would create additional foot traffic and the vision for an 18 hour open for business downtown.

He believes two large hotel entrances will not.

"It'll be the first time I've heard that a place that puts hundreds of more people across the street from your business is bad for business," said Yordon.

City records show the same developers have been planning to build on the parking lot for years.

In 2007, the planning commission approved zoning for a hotel, office, retail and parking deck plan.

At that time, Governance Inc., owned and operated by current city commissioner Scott Maddox, lobbied for the project.

Maddox no longer owns Governance Inc. and he was not in elected office at the time his firm lobbied for the deal.

Part of the original plan, the A Loft Hotel was built.

Faced with a recession, the rest of it wasn't.

In 2011 developers were given a two year extension to get the rest of the project done.

Then in April of this year, city commissioners approved another two year extension to 2015.

Maddox didn't vote.

Now the developers only want to build a hotel and parking garage.

But the modified plan means the financing for the garage may not work.

"That analysis is going on right now and I can't tell you today whether that will be found to be financially feasible or not," said Tallahassee Economic and Community Development Director Michael Parker.

"It's going to be something we can show we can make work," said Yordon. "And if we can't, it might be a real uphill climb to get the vote we're looking for," he said.

Yordon acknowledges the revised project is far from a done deal.

Both city commissioners and the Community Redevelopment Authority must approve the plan.

Votes on the issue are pending including at the city commission on Wednesday.

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