Alachua County OKs purchase of Sunrise Inn owned by St. Francis House 

Alachua County Commissioner Anna Prizzia speaks at Monday's joint meeting with the city of Gainesville.
Alachua County Commissioner Anna Prizzia speaks at a Jan. 22 meeting.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted to move forward with a contract to purchase the Sunrise Residence Inn from St. Francis House on Tuesday. 

The county also approved six joint projects with the city of Waldo and heard from many public speakers about a Gaza cease-fire resolution and single-member districts returning to the November ballot. 

The Sunrise Inn purchase price is listed as $1.95 million, and County Manager Michele Lieberman said the transaction has followed an unusual process to get before the board and will have no appraisal.   

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The property, 2120 SW 14th Street, has 35 units that are mostly occupied. The units are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The purchase comes as Alachua County aims to increase its number of permanent supportive housing units after years of planning. 

But Lieberman said purchasing Sunrise Inn wasn’t part of the county’s plans until early April.

At the BOCC’s April 9 meeting, Lieberman informed the board that a developer had approached St. Francis House about purchasing the Sunrise Inn and turning the property into student apartments. 

Lieberman said St. Francis House’s financial situation made the offer a real possibility, with a contract offer expected soon. 

St. Francis House stopped providing daily meals this month and told Mainstreet in February that it planned to sell its downtown shelter to bolster finances. 

“Because we’re aware of this, the question to you is ‘do you want us to do anything to pursue this,’” Lieberman asked at the April 9 meeting. 

The commissioners voted yes, asking staff to get involved in order to keep the units affordable housing. A chair letter to St. Francis House was included in the vote, asking the nonprofit to work with the county on the sale. The letter also requested that St. Francis House inform the county about other ways to support its shelter system.  

Commissioner Anna Prizzia said she never heard from St. Francis House as much as other nonprofits. She said she assumed that was because the nonprofit didn’t need anything.  

“The closing of that 35 units would be devastating,” Prizzia said. “I mean, we already have a list that’s so long. We need that affordable housing desperately.”    

Lauri Schiffbauer, executive director for the nonprofit, told the commission that St. Francis House would restart food services in the next two weeks as the sale proceeds.  

The agreement approved Tuesday by the BOCC gives a $150,000 non-refundable payment to St. Francis House when the parties enter the contract, preventing other parties from purchasing during that time. If the sale moves forward, the payment will be included in the purchase price.  

Closing on the property could come in the next three months. 

Alachua County and the Alachua County Housing Authority would take over management of the 35 units.  

The city of Waldo asked Alachua County to approve six projects to receive funds set aside from the infrastructure surtax. Alachua County has set aside $333,333 from each half of the surtax (Wild Spaces Public Places and the roads, housing and fire stations) for each of the nine municipalities.  

Waldo plans to use the Wild Spaces Public Places funds to renovate the Waldo Community Center, refresh the Veteran’s Park downtown and revamp Sid Martin Park.  

 
The other side of the funding would be used to install a fire suppression system in Constellation Charter School, install Advanced Metering Infrastructure for water meters and replace the generator at the city’s tower well.  

During public comment on Tuesday, 13 speakers opposed the BOCC’s plan to place single-member districts back on the ballot. Voters approved single-member districts in 2022—against the wishes of the BOCC.  

After public comment opposed to single-member districts in March, the commissioners voted to place the item back for another vote. 

Many public commenters also asked the BOCC to support a cease-fire resolution concerning the war in Gaza. The request came before the county in early 2024 but ended up not moving forward.  

However, on Tuesday, Commissioner Ken Cornell said he does support revisiting Alachua County’s financial investments—especially one into Lockheed Martin—and seeing if the county can legally pull that investment. 

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JeffK

The sad fate of St. Francis House is due to politicians, bail bondsmen and lawyers teaming up to establish GRACE MP, to help court casesloads have addresses for single male evicted, homeless criminals and addicts. That created a magnet for panhandlers and repeat offenders coming and staying here, running up our insurance and violent crime rates. Just so public lawyers can pay off their student loans faster.
Meanwhile homeless women and families are being neglected as SFH is.

Jim Sparks

Great, more of our tax dollars spent on BOCC social and pet programs.

Mike

It looks like the phrase “If you build it they will come” is being replaced by “If you buy it they will come”.

$56,000 per room/unit for low income ‘housing’. That used to sound quite expensive. To some it still does.

I have to wonder –
How many of the homeless in these shelters are from the local area?
How often do the police have to respond to events? This address isn’t unknown to them.

James

Can we find news was to burn money?

infinity306

this is silly, they already have 2 other motel sites that they haven’t managed to convert yet. I guess at least this 1 is currently occupied though. I also thought Sunrise was currently ran by Alachua County Housing Authority?

Last edited 2 months ago by infinity306