By Jordan Millian
Gainesville’s Community Redevelopment Agency committed $277,619 to a long-gestating public-private improvement project for Innovation Square in a meeting Monday. The commitment marks one of the last steps in the pre-construction process before Trimark Properties begins work in the area.
Money for the project comes from three sources: Trimark (46 percent), Gainesville Public Works (40 percent) and the CRA (14 percent). Commissioner and CRA chair Craig Carter said the CRA money is for aesthetic installments in the area, including bike racks, benches and lighting.
“The money from [Public Works] is for stormwater upgrades,” Carter said. “Upgrading the stormwater infrastructure has been [Public Works’] plan all along.”
The centerpiece of the stormwater upgrade is a 72 inch pipe that will drain stormwater into the Tumblin Creek watershed, Carter said. By moving a large amount of water slowly, the city can avoid it spouting at a high pressure, which tends to happen with smaller pipes, into the basin, which can damage the watershed.
The stormwater pipe will be the first-installed element of the series of upgrades and constructions, which include a new apartment complex from Trimark and a public-use urban walkway. Carter said the CRA’s end goal is to eventually have the walkway run north and connect to University Avenue.
Andrew Meeker, project manager for the CRA, said the urban walkway will be tied to Trimark’s private development project. In fact, Trimark will be managing all construction in the area, working with D.E. Scorpio Corporation so that the city’s money will go to the project without the city actually doing any of the work.
“All their work will be based on the approvals they got from the CRA boards,” Meeker said. “Construction should be starting in the next couple of months.”
Meeker said the public-private nature of the project ultimately benefits it.
“Each development project has its own set of opportunities and constraints,” Meeker said. “That’s why we work very closely with the development community on trying to figure out what the need is, and how we can facilitate reinvestment in these areas.”
John Fleming, managing partner for Trimark Properties, said the company plans to build a unique style of apartment complex in the area.
“It’s what we’re calling ‘transitional housing,’” Fleming said. “It’s on the edge of what traditionally has been Gainesville’s ‘student area,’ so we’re hoping to attract both student and non-student renters.”
This isn’t the first time Trimark has worked with the city on a development project. Fleming said their work on the Southwest Fifth Avenue stormwater basin proved a fruitful public-private sector relationship.
“We partnered up with Public Works,” Fleming said. “The CRA planted new trees, cleaned everything up, put in a fountain, put in lighting … We had each entity contributing something to make that happen.”
Fleming said he advocates for these types of collaborations, pointing out their gainful results in different cities.
“I recently went on a trip to Greenville, North Carolina,” Fleming said. “They have a very strong public-private collaboration. And they’ve been able to achieve some beautiful, beautiful things.”