Tallahassee CRA rebuffs funding for Washington Square project
Owner of the Washington Street project, Ken McDermott, asks Tallahassee's CRA board for a loan to backfill a hole on the project's lot at a meeting on Dec. 9, 2021.

The developer wanted a loan to backfill a hole on the lot.

Tallahassee’s Community Redevelopment Agency board declined to make a motion about a request from the Washington Square developer to explore a bridge loan for the project to remedy structural issues.

Work on the 19-story hotel project on 219 S. Calhoun St. stopped in December 2019 before it could get far. Since then, project developer Fairmont Tallahassee LLC has faced a legal settlement with the city, a pending lawsuit from a former contractor and $250 daily fines for permit and other violations since October, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Property owner Ken McDermott asked the CRA board, which includes City Commissioners, to provide a bridge loan ranging from $500,000 to $3 million to backfill a hole on the lot next to its partially constructed parking garage. He said filling it could attract more investors to the project and fix concerns that the hole would damage roads next to the lot.

“We have had the city and the area’s support for this project since the very beginning,” he said. “We will entertain any and all options.”

Board members did not express interest in making that loan.

Commissioner Jeremy Matlow said granting the loan would not spark any economic growth in the area.

“Just having that space just vacant and backfilled doesn’t bring any value to our community,” he said.

Commissioner Curtis Richardson did not make a motion, but expressed concern about the safety of the hole in the project. He said he didn’t think the project’s code violations are worth neglecting repairs that may be needed that would affect roads or other areas.

“Fines don’t mean a hill of beans if concrete is flying down Calhoun street,” he said.

Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said she wants the hole filled, but prefers the remedy to occur through the city purchasing the property or by being filled by project investors.

“I don’t want to be known as the city with a hole in the middle of town,” she said.

In a conversation with CRA staff after the meeting, McDermott said he would be interested in exploring selling the property to the city or to other investors. He told them he would be meeting with other members of city staff in January to explore other options on funding filling the hole.

Tristan Wood

Tristan Wood graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a degree in Journalism. A South Florida native, he has a passion for political and accountability reporting. He previously reported for Fresh Take Florida, a news service that covers the Florida Legislature and state political stories operating out of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. You can reach Tristan at [email protected], or on Twitter @TristanDWood


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