New Hotel In Downtown Ocala Still A Long Way From Reality

The city of Ocala has been working with local developers for nearly two years in an attempt to strike a deal to build a new hotel east of the downtown square.

The developers are set to spend at least $5 million on the 60,000-square-foot hotel, which will include 80 rooms as well as a 3,000-square-foot sit-down restaurant, along with the possibility of a meeting room conference center. The city, in turn, will fund a new parking garage that will be built proximate to the hotel. The garage will include anywhere from 250 to 400 parking spaces, along with the potential for retail space on the ground floor.

Despite progress, the project is still a long ways from breaking ground. Even if the developers and the city strike a deal this month, the city will have six months to decide if it wants to actually undertake the parking structure project, giving it time to consider designs and costs. The developers will have these six months to obtain a franchise agreement with a Hyatt, Holiday Inn, or a similar hotel or to develop a business plan for a boutique hotel of similar quality.

This six-month period also marks the amount of time the city would have to obtain approvals for necessary road improvements from the Florida Department of Transportation, while the developer must obtain the first of two financial reports affirming the company’s feasibility in undertaking the project during this period. Due to these (along with many other) complications and potentials for setbacks, the potential completion date for the hotel, should the project go through at all, could be nearly three years in the future.

Two previous attempts to redevelop downtown both ended in failure. One was led by a Miami firm that went bankrupt, costing the city $2 million, while another was led by a Daytona Beach firm that was unable to secure financing for it’s main mixed-use project. Despite this, the city is attempting to push the project through. It has chosen to work with local developers for this project, as they are known entities. An internal feasibility study indicated that the project would generate roughly 100 temporary construction jobs, between 75-100 hotel jobs, and 30-40 jobs in retail. The developer also pointed out that the city has been discussing the need for a parking garage downtown for nearly 50 years, another major factor driving the project forward. 


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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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