On October 23, 2014, the Leon County Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) voted to give the new owner of the downtown Double Tree Hotel $883,000 in tax dollars to help with the hotel renovation.
The CRA is comprised of nine members, including the five City of Tallahassee Commissioners along with four of the seven Leon County Commissioners, selected by the Leon County Commission.
According to the City’s website, the CRA projects must serve a public purpose and must address concerns raised in the adopted redevelopment plans for each area.
The Community Redevelopment Act (Act), adopted in 1969, is intended to help communities revitalize downtowns, reserve historic structures, and otherwise enhance the designated CRA district.
According to Florida statutes, in order to establish a CRA, the local government legislative body must adopt a resolution finding that the designated area is a “slum” or “blighted,” or it contains a shortage of affordable housing, and that the rehabilitation or redevelopment of the area is “necessary” in the interest of the public’s “health, safety, morals or welfare.”
The owner of the Doubletree, John Burnette, was the top political donor to local campaigns during the 2014 cycle with approximately $24,000 in donations through approximately 20 different businesses.
Based on the agenda provided by CRA staff, IB Tallahassee, LLC, owner of the Doubletree hotel submitted a request for up to $682,000 in CRA grant funds for assistance with the installation of sidewalk/streetscape improvements on the east side of South Adams Street between Park and College Avenues (the Project).
As proposed, installation of the project would be funded by the Doubletree owner and the CRA funds would be provided as a reimbursement to the owner over 10 years at 5.0 percent annual interest. The hotel is located within the Downtown District (DD) Community Redevelopment Area and is consistent with the Downtown Community Redevelopment Plan.
The proposed design includes expanding the sidewalk on the northwest corner of the hotel into metered parking spaces, adding outdoor seating under two marbled pergolas (arbor), installing a vehicle pull-in/drop-off for restaurant guests, and the creation of a pedestrian plaza along the existing sidewalk using granite pavers.
The proposed project has been reviewed by CRA and City staffs, including representatives of Public Works and the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Department/Design Works. A major portion of the CRA/City review has focused on ensuring the sidewalk/streetscape design proposed by the Applicant can also be continued along Adams Street from City Hall north to Tennessee Street, and eventually north to the Governor’s mansion and the Grove.
If the CRA Board approves the project funding request, the owner will work with City and CRA staff to refine the concept details, if needed, to ensure they are consistent with the overall Adams Street vision.
Tallahassee Reports has contacted the CRA staff to determine who voted for and against the project. The only no vote that has been verified by Tallahassee Reports was cast by Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor.