The Alachua City Commission heeded staff’s recommendation and granted approval of the preliminary plat of Convergence Research Park.
Robert Walpole P.E. of Causseaux, Hewett, & Walpole, Inc. (CHW) submitted the application for the development of a 109-acre property located near CR 241 and US 441 in Alachua.
Applicants and the commission spent two hours Monday night discussing the presentation and answering questions from the public before voting 4-0 in approval with Commissioner Robert Wilford absent.
CHW played a two-minute video highlighting that the live/work development would be a place for residents and researchers to stay active biking and hiking trails while enjoying a “vibrant town center and millions of square feet of office and laboratory space.”
The plat includes a total of 273 lots “with associated common areas and road right-of-way.”
The development would be a continuation of the city’s commitment to health and biotechnology being located near the UF Innovate Sid Martin Biotech incubator. And it would have access to 8,000 acres of nature at San Felasco State Park, that the applicants referred to as a “playground for hikers, off-road cyclists and nature lovers.”
There were three conditions for approval presented by the City of Alachua that were included in the motion.
“The applicant agrees it shall provide a 100 percent survey of the subject property considering the potential presence of any listed species which may occur on-site based upon the site’s available habitat and location,” a staff report said. “These species shall include the Florida pine snake, the gopher tortoise, the little blue heron, the Southeastern American kestrel, and the tricolored heron. If any listed species are observed on-site, the 100 percent survey shall include a list of all local, state, and federal permits required for relocation of the listed species.”
The second condition requires a “minimum floor area of non-residential uses” to be “constructed as part of a mixed-use development” before the commission approves a final development order.
The third condition protects private property owners: “The applicant agrees that Conditions 1–2 as stated above do not inordinately burden the land and shall run with the land and be binding upon the property owner, including any subsequent property owners, successors, or assigns, and that the development shall comply with Conditions 1–2 as stated herein.”
Horse farm owners living near the development expressed concern over buffers, but CHW representatives increased the distance and said they were willing to meet with anyone to work out details and had an open-door policy for continued communication.
Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper said the development opens up an opportunity for the city and that any concerns about school populations will be dealt with when the final plat is submitted. He said it will be subject to a concurrency review that will calculate the availability of school capacity.
“Our goal is to create a compatible project,” said Brian Crawford, founder, owner and CEO of Concept Companies and manager of San Felasco Research Ventures told the commission. He described how conference centers, a retail area and a community activation area will all fit together.
Crawford explained why he wanted to build the project near a biotech facility.
“If we want to build a strong job environment, if we want to bring good jobs and educate people, we need a community that kids can come to and have a unique experience as they walk through,” he said. “We want people to go by these buildings and read signage that says: Did you know that the average income at this company is $85,000 a year? Or did you know after two years of training at the Perry Center across the street you could come out and get a job here?”