Tallahassee Reports has learned the the Community Redevelopment Agency voted to sell a piece of property on Gaines Street to North American Properties (NAP), a past developer of projects on Gaines Street, without seeking competitive bids.
North American Properties has previously been given Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) tax breaks to build student housing in the Gaines Street area.
Tallahassee Reports has also learned that North American Properties (NAP) hired long-time lobbyist and Tallahassee Democrat contributing columnist, Gary Yordon, to lobby the City Commission on their behalf. City lobbyist records can be seen here.
Lobbyist registration records show that Yordon is registered to lobby County Commissioners for NAP as well. The Community Redevelopment Agency board is made up of Tallahassee and Leon County Commissioners.
Campaign records show that North American Properties and an affiliate company, District Joint Ventures, have made campaign contributions to a majority of the current CRA Board members within the last three years. The recipients include Mayor Andrew Gillum ($1,000) and City Commissioners Nancy Miller ($2,000) and Scott Maddox ($500) and County Commissioners Mary Ann Lindley ($250), and Nick Maddox ($500).
With the hiring of Yordon, who has been a City vendor in the past and a lobbyist for other developers, NAP solidifies their access , not only to elected officials, but also to CRA staff.
On October 29th the CRA took up two development items of interest to NAP.
On both items, the CRA staff, among other options, recommended that NAP be sold property without a competitive bid process.
The first item involved property that borders Cascades Park and is the current location of the Firestone building and the Bloxham Annex. NAP proposed to buy the property for $4.08 million.
The CRA voted to seek additional proposals for this property.
However, on the second item involving property located at 715 Gaines Street, the CRA voted to accept NAP’s offer to purchase the property for $770,000 without seeking other bids.
The $770,000 is the value of the property in the agreement that will result in the CRA acquiring the property from the State of Florida.
NAP which owns property next to 715 Gaines Street, plans to build a student housing complex with retail opportunities on the ground floor.
What was the rationale for not seeking alternative bids? CRA staff wrote in the agenda item:
staff believes the offer from NAP offers the best opportunity to redevelop the combined properties at the highest and best use. Other developers may be willing to offer more to purchase the property, but without a larger redevelopment site the property will not be developed at the highest and best use.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported on the CRA meeting, but did not discuss the business relationship between Gary Yordon and North American Properties or the no bid vote of the CRA that benefited North American Properties.