by Neighbors Standing with Seminary Lane
Once upon a time there was a beautiful neighborhood in the center of Gainesville. It was called Seminary Lane.
It had a school (currently named A. Quinn Jones Education Center, soon to be renamed), barber and beauty shops, nurseries for children, mom and pop places to eat, locally owned funeral homes and a place where music played and people danced.
People thrived in their community. African-American people. They had homes they could afford in a place they loved. Having been pushed there during the Jim Crow area, they built a vibrant, diverse, historically African-American community which is now prey for developers seeking to build luxury student rental housing.
Then desegregation came. Children were bused out of the neighborhood. The people lost the heartbeat of the neighborhood; some folks scattered. A section of federally subsidized housing, in the area of NW 5th Ave and NW 12th Street, was allowed to go into disrepair.
In 2009 it was razed with the promise that it would be rebuilt with affordable housing.
That didn’t happen.
For over ten years, the land has remained vacant after stewardship was passed to the Gainesville Florida Housing Corporation, a nonprofit corporation created by the Gainesville Housing Authority (GHA).
The purpose of the GFHC is to develop affordable housing on the Seminary Lane property under the supervision of the GHA, which must approve any sale of the property. The GFHC’s sole asset is the Seminary Lane property.
Much to the dismay, consternation and aggravation of the existing Seminary Lane and surrounding neighborhood residents, with approval of the GHA, the GFHC has agreed to sell the six and a half acre property to an Orlando developer, Trammell Webb, that will be developed into a complex of luxury apartments and parking garages for, guess who?
Not local residents, but students.
The GFHC board of seven local African-American citizens planned the sale without resident input. The City of Gainesville Department of Sustainable Development approved the plan as permitted under the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code with staff review only, without public hearings, despite clear language in the Code intended to protect neighborhoods with a special character and history.
It is a travesty.
The residents are supposed to be happy that the $8.5 million being paid for the land will be used for affordable housing. Not in Seminary Lane. Not for anything that has been planned. Just with the promise that somewhere, somehow, affordable housing might be built.
That’s not good enough.
A group of dedicated supporters of Seminary Lane has filed an Administrative Hearing Appeal. We are in the middle of legal proceedings to have the approval of the plan overturned. We are pointing out that the plan breaches the Gainesville Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code in several ways and is incompatible with the character of the neighborhood.
On June 19 more than 100 people attended a Zoom hearing. For nearly eight hours citizens spoke with near unanimous opposition to the development. On Sept. 14 and 15 we presented experts who pointed out the deficiencies of the plan. On Oct. 1 and 2 the appeal hearing continued with the developer’s witnesses and final arguments.
This is a noble effort for the integrity of all urban neighborhoods. We resist the GFHC selling out to a developer without talking to residents, we resist the city process that allowed this to happen without citizen input, we resist the continuation of preying on an African-American community and we resist allowing massive development for the express purpose of new student housing in the belly of any of our neighborhoods.
We could use your support. We can’t predict how the administrative hearing officer/judge will decide the case. Janice Garry has a list of supporters who receive updates on the status of our appeal. We’ve had great Zoom attendance at the hearings that have been noticed by the hearing officer.
Additionally, we need financial support. We have an attorney who is working at 1/3 his usual fee, but it still adds up. We’ve just been hit with fees for transcribing hearing records that could be as much as $8,000.
If you would like to receive updates or if you can help with a donation (every little bit helps), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with Seminary Lane in the subject line.
The goal for Seminary Lane is to build African-American workforce housing, perhaps through a Community Land Trust, and to encourage locally owned businesses.
That’s not too much to ask. Thank you for taking the time to learn about our quest.