Plans are under way to break ground on a mixed-use science and tech park, called Convergence Research Park, early next year next to San Felasco State Park.
The residential component of this tech park will include a new house type, a cottage home, which is a single-family detached home that differs from more traditional family homes by using smaller lot sizes, having unique building structures, and being clustered around common grounds within a cottage neighborhood.
CHW Professional Consultants, the urban planners for Convergence Research Park, obtained approval from the Alachua City Commission on Oct. 11 for their proposed amendment to the city’s Land Development Regulation to allow for a sustainable cottage neighborhood in a Corporate Park zoning district.
City Manager Mike DaRoza said Alachua is home to many companies specializing in life sciences, technologies and emerging technologies. These companies serve as a significant employment base for the community and provide property tax revenue and other benefits.
“One of the city’s strategic initiatives is the desire to build strong relationships with these industries to promote the growth of these sectors in Alachua through business retention and attraction efforts,” DaRoza said.
CHW Vice President Gerry Dedenbach said that the benefits to using cottage homes in the Corporate Park zoning provides the opportunity to bring new families to the community and creates a new resilient economic urban form, which is beneficial to the community and its residents.
“The compact cottage home footprint requires less infrastructure and municipal services while simultaneously preserving agricultural lands,” Dedenbach said.
Convergence Research Park’s developer, Concept Companies, hopes to start the first phase of construction, which will include the development of cottage and traditional single-family homes, a research building and conference center, and retail, restaurant and hospitality services in early 2022.
CEO Brian Crawford said the research community in Alachua has many people traveling from Gainesville to work in the corporate parks. Cottage neighborhoods, which have become very popular across the US, provide an affordable housing option for those wanting to live close to where they work.
“The goal is to provide diverse housing opportunities within corporate park zoning, including cottage homes, which have a smaller footprint and are much more attainable for people who might live and work in that district,” Crawford said.
Crawford said he expected 70 cottage home units to be built, ranging from 1,000 to 1,750 square feet, priced between $275,000 – $325,000, ($275 to $186 per square foot). The cottage home’s smaller footprint helps to preserve land and achieve sustainability goals set for the project, given its close proximity to the San Felasco State Park.
“By reducing the footprint in our housing size, it allows us to increase sustainable green space and also preserve land for our research facility,” Crawford said.
According to Realtor.com, the median size of homes currently listed in Alachua is 1,839 square feet with a median price of $314,500, or $171 per square foot. The pricing for the comparably sized 1,750-square-foot cottage homes in the tech park slightly exceeds the median price for Alachua but offers the ability to live and work in the same community.
Dedenbach said this project’s planning and engineering efforts focused on sustainability by providing inherent quality of life and economically resilient elements into each design, substantially consistent with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and green globe principles.
“To create thriving and sustainable economic development opportunities, the projects we design need to reinforce the human connection to our workplaces and places we call home,” Dedenbach said.
The plan for Convergence Research Park is that it is mainly self-contained, having its own interior roads, bike paths and walking trails, providing a way for residents to travel to and from work without ever getting in a car.
“Our design is very compatible with the other surrounding areas, and it does not negatively impact traffic,” Crawford said. “It allows people to live, work and play all in one place.”
Alachua considers the impact a new development plan may have on surrounding vehicular and pedestrian networks, such as increased traffic congestion and safety concerns, before approving projects like this.
DaRoza said the amended Land Development Regulations for cottage home regulations did not directly affect vehicular traffic or pedestrian circulation.
The first phase of Convergence Research Park will be built on about 260 acres of land adjacent to the San Felasco State Park entrance near San Felasco Parkway and Progress Boulevard.
At the Nov. 9 planning and zoning Alachua City Commissioners meeting, CHW presented the plans for the first research building in the district, Momentum Labs, a 60,000-square-foot facility designed to provide state-of-the-art, ready to use laboratory solutions for the region’s growing biotech companies. The commissioner’s approval of the plans has not yet been reported.
The project is owned by San Felasco Research Ventures, LLC, a joint venture between developer Concept Companies and the Roberts Companies, LLC. The owners are not ready to publicly release the full site plan.