GNV votes to divide power district, prep for bids

Gainesville City Hall
Gainesville City Hall
Photo by Suzette Cook

The Gainesville City Commission voted on Thursday to divide the power district into parcels to prepare for bids and, the city hopes, new life through organic development.  

The motion, made by Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, also authorized city staff to transfer $363,000 in power district funds to support the creation of a downtown strategic plan. The motion passed unanimously.  

The power district lies northeast of Depot Park and consists of around 24 acres controlled by Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU). The site contains buildings no longer in use by the utility along with a couple buildings still used for storage.    

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“Our primary interest is obtaining the value out of the land not to put any more funds into it,” GRU General Manager Tony Cunningham said.  

However, the city is constrained by House Bill 1645 that the Legislature passed in May. The bill transfers management control of GRU and its assets to a new authority board to be created by Gov. Ron DeSantis.  

While the governor has yet to sign the bill, the City Commission expects he will support the Republican-led effort to pass HB 1645. The bill contains a clause that gives the new authority control over all assets held by GRU as of Jan. 1, 2023.  

GRU General Manager Tony Cunningham
Courtesy of city of Gainesville Tony Cunningham

State Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, said the clause prevents a transfer of assets to the general government side of the city of Gainesville. He added that the clause could trap the sale of GRU’s trunked radio system to Alachua County. Both governments signed off on the agreement earlier this year.  

In March, the City Commission asked for updated appraisals for the power district. GRU staff told the commission that demolishing the buildings is the highest and best use according to the appraiser, with one building having a renovate option.   

GRU gave appraisals for each proposed parcel, and the amounts add up to $8,550,000 for the majority of the power district. GRU’s administration building and parking lot were added to the power district in 2019 and appraised, totaling $14.3 million. 

The Catalyst Building also lies on the site. The city invested $2.25 million to renovate that building in 2013 and currently rents out the space to a local company.  

The city has considered renovating the area for several years, creating a master plan in 2013 with community feedback. Gainesville sent an invitation to negotiate and started talks with a company to manage the property during a transition to retail, residences and other opportunities, but the talks never ended in a contract. 

Mayor Harvey Ward added the power district to a list of 15 priority items, and financial pressure added urgency to the conversation.  

With control likely falling to the new authority, the city can only prep to request bids and potential sale and see if the new authority agrees. If so, the land will already be parceled for the next step. 

City staff also presented a map for potential zoning of the power district, including a range from one-story to six-story buildings. But the commission decided not to act on the zoning for now.  

Commissioners supported maintaining the Sweetwater Trail that runs through the power district and toward Depot Park.  

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If they hadn’t been distracted by national and global politics for last 15 years, the power district would have been redeveloped by now. Now, the new state law on GRU board will delay it longer. Priorities 🧐🤔


Mayor Ward and Commsioners are these GRU assets or City of Gainesville assets. Keep your pigs at the trough agenda to Gainesville assets. GRU and assets should be hands off. Govern yourselves carefully , Big Brother and others are lsitening.


So they do not want to spend more money? But want to transfer $363K for planning? The planners are on the clock now, do you need to pay them extra to do their jobs?
As we all know our commission does not have a clue about operating a city government.

Steve H

The City commission has proven repeatedly, across several administrations, that they are absolutely clueless at real estate development. They can’t even run a parking garage.

Jeff Gehmann

The city commission couldn’t manage a small pig farm much less a power district, a regional utility, much less a city. Only now, when it’s too late did they come together to vote to see it.