National Groups Compete on Hotel & Conference Center Proposals

After the city’s recent invitation generated interest, commissioners must decide if they want full proposals from the two interested groups. One has worked on similar projects in various states; the other team includes an architect experienced in hotel design and involves former Alachua County commissioner Rodney Long.

Editor’s Note: This is an update to the July 2012 cover story, “Two Groups Vie to Build Hotel & Conference Center.”

The Gainesville City Commission has generated the kind of interest it wanted from its recent request for general proposals for a hotel and conference center. Two development teams with broad nationwide experience responded to the commission’s invitation for proposals.

“I’m pleased that we have two proposals,” says City Manager Russ Blackburn. “It’s good to have a bit of competition.”

A sketch provided by Gainesville Hotel & Conference Center.

The commission must consider whether it’s willing to explore using city funds, including those generated for use by the Community Redevelopment Agency through increases in property values in distressed areas, Blackburn says.

Blackburn says he will suggest that the commission ask both groups to proceed with detailed proposals when it meets Thursday, June 21. The commission asked for the general proposals so that developers could express interest without investing a large amount of resources in preparing detailed plans, Blackburn says.

The two development teams are Acquest Realty Advisors of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Gainesville Hotel & Conference Center, LLC, of Savannah.

The proposals compare as follows:

The Gainesville Hotel & Conference Center team includes MDG Development, LLC, a nationwide builder of commercial buildings; Capstone Development, LLC, which has experience in hotel management; Coastal Construction of Florida, which has built multiple hotels; and Nichols, Brosch, Wurst, Wolfe & Associates Architects, which has planned and designed more than 30,000 hotel rooms. It includes two local consultants, former Alachua County commissioner Rodney Long and Avis Butler.

Gainesville Hotel & Conference Center would own the project, although it would need the city’s help in covering some expenses, says managing partner Kent Gregory.

Acquest helped develop hotels and conference centers in Erie, Penn.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Kingsport, Tenn. It is involved in development in Fort Myers, Fla., and it’s working on a hotel project in Ann Arbor, Mich. It generally pulls together investors, contractors, management groups and local governments when working on a project of this nature. “We’re facilitators, and we typically don’t have any ownership interest,” says Vice President Douglas Smith.

Gainesville Hotel & Conference Center proposes a hotel of 200 to 250 rooms and a 20,000 to 25,000-square-foot conference center. They would build the project on a city-owned parking lot located on Southwest Second Street.

Acquest envisions a hotel of 100 to 150 rooms and a modest-sized conference center, with the potential to add another 100 rooms later, Smith says. Acquest didn’t specify where it would build the project. In its request regarding the project, the city indicated possible sites could be in an area bordered by Northwest 8th Avenue (to the north), Depot Avenue (to the south) and 10th Street (to the west).

The new complex would need to work with the 124-room Downtown Hampton Inn & Suites, in Smith’s opinion. “We wouldn’t want to overshadow the Hampton and put it out of business,” he says. The project would also need to be within walking distance of the Hampton as well as Innovation Square, Smith says.

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