Committee to study development for eastern Gainesville

February 6, 2011

 

By Chad Smith
Staff writers

Published: Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 9:47 p.m.

The Gainesville City Commission on Thursday created a temporary committee to study economic development for the central and eastern parts of the city after Commissioner Scherwin Henry shared his vision of a hotel/conference center downtown and mixed-use retail, office and residential development nearby.

The committee — made up of Henry, Lauren Poe and Thomas Hawkins — will have six months to work with city and Community Redevelopment Agency staff to come up with proposals.

"There is not significant retail development; there is not economic development from the standpoint of promoting growth that would possibly move from the inner core of our city east," said Henry, who pitched the idea of a hotel/conference center at a CRA meeting in December.

At that meeting, the other commissioners weren't willing to take an official step.

He said Thursday afternoon that downtown is sort of an economic "black hole."

"We're missing out on an opportunity," he said. "There needs to be some type of significant retail complex downtown."

Other commissioners were excited about his ideas.

"We're talking my language," Warren Nielsen said. "I love this."

Groups announce endorsements: Campaigns for City Commission seats are in full swing, and endorsements for candidates in the March 15 elections are starting to come in. Interestingly, the unions that represent members of the city's police and fire departments have endorsed entirely different slates.

Jeff McAdams, president of Fraternal Order of Police Gator Lodge 67, said the candidates his membership endorsed are "well-rounded in the area of public safety," adding that there has been "no emphasis, in our opinion, on public safety" from the current commission.

The union is backing: Don Marsh for the at-large seat; Todd Chase for District 2; and Jimmy Harnsberger for District 3.

The two incumbents in the mix, Hawkins and Poe, running for re-election to their at-large and District 2 seats, respectively, came close to winning endorsements from the members, but both did not have good enough voting records when it comes to the public safety, McAdams said.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2157 is backing Hawkins and Poe as well as Susan Bottcher in the District 3 race.

Equality Florida, a statewide civil rights organization advocating for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community that recently opened an office here, announced its endorsements Tuesday: Hawkins for at-large; Poe for District 2; Bottcher for District 3.

4As forum today: The political action committee for the African American Accountability Alliance will host its candidate forum for the City Commission elections today.

The forum will focus primarily on issues pertaining to the black community and will be held at 6 p.m. at the Alachua County Health Department, 224 SE 24th St.

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