Nearly a decade after the long-stalled University Corners development was first proposed, a South Florida developer has taken the reins of the project with an aim toward starting construction in the summer.
The Coconut Grove-based Swerdlow Group’s development portfolio includes retail complexes such as the Dolphin Mall in Miami and several South Florida subdivisions and condominium complexes.
“They are an entity that’s ready to take the project on and has the capacity to get it built,” said Gainesville land-use attorney David Coffey, who is representing Swerdlow.
Coffey said if the City Commission approves requested changes prior to approving the project, ground could break in the summer of 2013.
First floated back in 2003, University Corners would rise on the grassy field that stretches along the west side of Northwest 13th Street from University Avenue to Northwest Third Avenue. Retail buildings once stood on the prime piece of real estate just north of the University of Florida, but were demolished more than five years ago to make way for University Corners.
But the mixed-use development, which would include retail space, some 500 apartments or condominiums, a hotel and a parking garage, stalled in the face of financing difficulties.
The only piece built to date is the Gator Wesley Foundation Center church.
In October, the Swerdlow Group contacted city government with proposed changes that, for the most part, would increase the threshold of what may be built.
In a letter to the city Planning Department, Brett Dill, the president of the Swerdlow Group, said the requested changes were in “response to the changed market conditions due to the recent economic downturn.”
The most significant change sought in an application that went to the city’s advisory Plan Board on Monday evening is an increase in the maximum height from eight stories and 95 feet to 10 stories and 110 feet.
Asked the reason behind the requested height increase, Coffey said, “There is a need to add some more residential to the site to make it more financially feasible.”
In a unanimous vote, the Plan Board recommended approval of the application, which also included the following:
– A change in residential development plans from 247 condominiums and 243 hotel/condo units to 500 apartments or condominiums and a 250-room hotel.
– An increase in the square footage of a parking garage from 350,000 to 380,000 and the number of parking spaces from 1,000 to 1,200.
– An increase in the total building area, including the garage, from 1.185 million square feet to 1.33 million.
– A decrease in retail square footage from 115,000 to 100,000.