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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Alachua County Commission decided Tuesday to postpone decisions on funding Gainesville’s redevelopment agency and closing a homeless camp until February.

The commission unanimously voted to collect more information on the two issues so they can be further discussed on Feb. 11.

The Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, which builds community projects, plans to combine its four districts — College Park and University Heights; 5th Avenue and Pleasant Street; Eastside; and Downtown — into one. The Gainesville City Commission already approved the action but also needs county commission approval.

The agency also plans to have $70 million in funding and requested $40 million over 10 years from the county commission, said County Commissioner Ken Cornell during the meeting.

County Commissioner Mike Byerly encouraged the commission to request a list of projects for at least the next three years from the agency before making a decision about payments.

“I don’t have any idea what they’re doing, and I don’t think any of you do,” Byerly said.

Cornell agreed that in a usual case they would ask for the list but because the agency said the scope of the project is so large, he advised against needing one.

“Let’s talk about what that investment in slum and blight would bring back in the community because it’s supposed to spur private investment in East Gainesville,” Cornell said.

There are two meetings scheduled for Feb. 11 and Feb. 25 with the County Commission, Gainesville City Commission and the agency to discuss these plans, said Alachua County Commission Chairman Charles Chestnut.

The commission unanimously voted on a motion to request the city to come up with a preliminary project list for the first meeting that also includes debt, interest rates and expiration dates.

After discussions about the agency, the commission went on to decide whether to close Dignity Village, a homeless encampment that surrounds Grace Marketplace.

The commission unanimously voted on a motion to have staff gather data on housing needs by Feb. 11.

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Jon DeCarmine, the executive director of Grace Marketplace, a homeless facility, said homelessness is a critical social problem.

“We’ve got a lot of work left to do, but we’re closer now to ending homelessness than we’ve ever been,” he said.

Contact Josephine Fuller at jfuller@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @JomarieUF.

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