By Christopher Curry | The Gainesville Sun
County government and the Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority might join efforts to bring a business park to east Gainesville.
The plans would involve a joint master plan for 76 acres of the current county fairgrounds property and approximately 40 acres fronting Waldo Road on the adjoining airport property that is known as the "Horseshow" tract.
Both properties have business/industrial zoning designations in place. The Airport Authority also has federal and state grant funding to go toward construction of a new entrance road off Waldo Road that could provide access to both the airport and a future business park.
The Airport Authority has mulled development options for its property for some time. County government for years has had designs on the redevelopment of the existing fairgrounds as a business park and the development of a new fairgrounds on property farther north along Waldo Road near the Leveda Brown Environmental Park & Transfer Station.
A few months back, the county sought to gauge interest from the private sector in a partnership on the redevelopment of the current fairgrounds and development of a new fairgrounds site. There was little interest, and nothing viable emerged.
County and airport staff then started talks on the potential joint venture. "The thought was that marketing and planning both properties together would generate more interest ... maybe we'd be stronger together than apart," Gainesville Regional Airport CEO Allan Penksa said.
The County Commission is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to move forward with development of a joint master plan. The Airport Authority is scheduled to take up the issue on Thursday.
Because the city of Gainesville owns the airport property and the current fairgrounds lies within the city limits, the City Commission also would have to work with the county and Airport Authority on the plans.
Assistant County Manager Rick Drummond said the county will approach the city about allowing a "general master plan" for the property. This, he said, would not require extensive engineering of the stormwater facilities or an internal road network or detailed lot drawings as part of the master plan.
Drummond said the move could cut the county's costs and accelerate the timetable for marketing the property.
"It would be easier for us to market the property because we could show how different users could plop something down and go straight to the development review process," he said.
Drummond and Penksa said the proposed business park could include corporate offices, manufacturing and industrial uses and, along Waldo Road, retail shops.
Presentations on the general details of the potential joint plan have been made to the City Commission's ad-hoc Eastside and Central City Development Committee and its Economic Development University Community Committee.
City Commissioner Todd Chase, chairman of the economic development committee, said moves such as the rezoning of the airport property to business/industrial designation lay the foundation for future business park plans. Chase said the goal is to bring something "economically viable" to the area but that at this point, the economy might preclude the private sector from making an investment.
Penksa said development of the master plan could have everything set for when the economy recovers enough for private firms to invest monies. Firms could receive tax credits or other incentives because the fairgrounds and the airport are inside a city Community Redevelopment Area and a state Enterprise Zone. Tax refunds for job creation through the state's Qualified Target Industry program are also a possibility.