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Dream Comes True for East Gainesville’s Cornerstone Project

Written By: Chris Eversole

The Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency has been methodically putting in place a master plan for the Cornerstone economic development center in East Gainesville – 13.6 acres that includes the Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC).

The work is paying off with the announcement that an established local business plans to relocate to the site, with the potential of adding 25 jobs to its current 75 employees.

“This is a dream come true,” said CRA Interim Director Sarah Vidal-Finn. “We were moving forward with the Phase I construction for the building fronting Hawthorne Road when we were approached by a potential tenant with a need for approximately 22,000 square feet by early 2017.”

The Gainesville City Commission will consider on Thursday, June 16th, a proposal that the CRA negotiated with a development team that proposes constructing buildings to accommodate Mérieux NutriSciences Corp.

A year ago, Mérieux acquired ABC Research Holding Co., a Gainesville-based food testing and consulting services company founded in 1967. The business is expanding from its current location near Archer Road.

Developers Mack Reese of Gateway Development and Brian Crawford of Concept Companies plan to build two buildings totaling 22,700 square feet for Mérieux to occupy.

The CRA is also working with the developers on including the Phase I building along Hawthorne Road in this deal. The CRA is proposing to move from its current home at 802 NW Fifth Avenue to the second floor of the third building, leaving the bottom floor available for retail and personal services companies.

“Having the CRA and Mérieux as anchors will spur further development,” Vidal-Finn said.

The CRA is employing tax increment financing (TIF), a mechanism that uses increased property taxes (county & city) – from properties within the Eastside Redevelopment District –to fund infrastructure in Cornerstone.

“Sometimes we get into a chicken and egg situation, with not being able to begin development without a tenant and not being able to attract a tenant without the infrastructure in place,” Vidal-Finn said. “With Cornerstone we had community and board support to move forward on an incremental phase of development. This investment created real momentum and made Cornerstone a viable and competitive location.”

The CRA used TIF to create a restaurant site, not far from Cornerstone at 1714 SE Hawthorne Road, which became the home of Southern Charm Kitchen.

The restaurant has fulfilled the CRA’s dream of becoming a destination for diners since it opened a year ago.

Southern Charm earned a Judge’s Choice award from the Urban Land Institute’s North Central Florida District Council in October.

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