The approval for a mixed-use development just north of the University of Florida campus has been delayed. Many nearby residents and some commissioners worry that the new development will not fit into the city's landscape and will cause traffic issues in the area. The commissioners asked the developer Swerdlow Group to meet with residents to discuss their concerns.
By Christopher Curry | The Gainesville Sun
The saga of the long-stagnant University Corners development continues.
Citing concerns over traffic congestion, the size of the building and the continued opposition from residents of the nearby University Park neighborhood, the Gainesville City Commission has delayed a significant decision on a developer's request to increase development thresholds for the project.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Friday, toward the end of a marathon evening meeting, commissioners voted 6-1, with Thomas Hawkins in dissent, to put off a decision whether to approve a requested land use change that would allow for things such as increasing the building height from 95 feet and eight stories to 110 feet and 10 stories.
“I can't in good conscience move forward with this with the questions I've heard tonight,” Mayor Craig Lowe said.
The more than 1 million-square-foot development would rise on a vacant grassy field north of the University of Florida campus, where retail was razed several years back to make way for redevelopment. It would stretch from Northwest 13th Street to Northwest 14th Street and from University Avenue to Northwest Third Avenue.
Back in January, commissioners, with Susan Bottcher absent, had voted unanimously to advance the application of the Miami-Dade based Swerdlow Group, the developer now behind the project, to the stage of ordinance hearings.
When the plans and associated building renderings came back, Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls voiced concerns about the size and scale.
“There's an enormity to it I didn't feel before. … It looks humongous,” she said.
Commissioner Lauren Poe, on the other hand, said the project represented the type of “transformative” and “dynamic” mixed-use, walkable urban redevelopment that the city pushes for in its Comprehensive Plan.
Poe said he understood concerns and uncertainty because the development would mean a significant change to the city's landscape.
“I also think most communities out there would be begging for a project like this,” he said.
Delaying the land-use vote, commissioners asked Swerdlow representatives to hold additional meetings with residents of neighborhoods to the west and north to address concerns over issues like traffic congestion and the size of the building. There's no set date for when that land use vote will come back to the commission.
In an unusual move suggested by the developer's local land use attorney, David Coffey, commissioners did give the first of two zoning approvals required to allow the requested changes to prior development approvals.
The first vote on the rezoning passed 5-2, with Hinson-Rawls and Susan Bottcher in dissent.
City Attorney Nicolle Shalley said the move was unusual but, in her opinion, not illegal. She noted that, by the language of the ordinance under consideration, the requested zoning changes could not take effect until the delayed land use changes received final approval.