City of Florence turns down developer’s $12.8M request for assistance

City of Florence turns down developer’s $12.8M request for assistance
City of Florence (Source: WAFF)

FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - A proposed a $45.5 million downtown residential, retail and office development and parking deck will not happen after the Florence City Council turned down the developer’s request for funding.

According to our news partners at The Times Daily, Developer James Bobo had requested nearly $12.8 million to help with parking, including a parking deck. Council president Dick Jordan sent him a letter last week turning down the request.

“That project obviously is not going to work without that parking deck,” Bobo said.

The plans for the project included a grocery store chain on the ground floor of the proposed five-story structure.

“The grocery store that we had involved in the conversation is really no longer interested in the site because we don’t have that additional residential development, so I don’t think anything is going to happen at this time,” Bobo said.

The Bobo group announced plans for the Mandolin development in December 2019, envisioning 112 residential units with retail spaces on the ground floor, as well as 323 office spaces with high-income occupants in the office and residential units.

Bobo said the development would create jobs and have an overall economic impact of more than $100 million.

He said the project emerged from two concepts: the city’s need for a new parking deck and the fact that there is a vacant lot downtown.

“The returns just aren’t there to incentivize a private company to build a parking deck like that,” Bobo said.

Jordan said the city has not given funds toward private development projects in the past, and there was uncertainty regarding the chances of success for this one, which makes it difficult to obligate public funds toward it.

“We couldn’t risk the money,” he said. “We’ve got to be very frugal with the way we spend the city’s money.”

Jordan said he wishes Bobo the best and is impressed by the proposed development.

“I do think it’s a viable project,” he said. “I’m sorry he couldn’t do it himself. It showed a lot of forethought and vision. That’s one thing we do need downtown is a grocery store of some kind.”

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