Alachua County Commission votes to buy Scottish Inn, moves forward with Food Hub pilot program

Scottish inn

Written by Jennifer Cabrera

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At its regular meeting on November 14, the Alachua County Commission approved the scope of work for the Experimental Food Center and approved the purchase of the Scottish Inn on SW 13th Street to provide affordable housing.

Scope of work for Pilot Food Hub

Alachua County Equity and Community Outreach Director Deidre Houchen said her staff conducted community engagement and prepared a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Fresh Food Trails – Food Center Pilot with a two-year budget of $962,000 from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds open to all Organizations interested in implementing food centers in Alachua County. According to the USDA, a food hub is “a company or organization that actively manages the assembly, distribution, and marketing of course-specified food products from primarily domestic and regional producers to enhance their ability to meet wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.”

The food hub is expected to source from regional and local farms, support the work of local community organizations, use a variety of marketing and outreach strategies, provide a regular assortment of fresh produce and food to low-income and marginalized communities, and accept a variety of products. Methods of payment and provision of nutrition education. It is expected to use the values ​​of fairness, accountability, transparency, environmental sustainability, a valued workforce, animal welfare, and community health and nutrition as “touchstones.”

“One way to do business is called ‘sense of urgency,’” Houschen told the board justice The way to do the work is to think about something called “urgent patience.” This is a moment when the board, the community, and our staff all need to be urgently patient because what the community is saying to us is, “We like the idea of ​​this collection center, but these other programs (such as access and availability related to food, education, and nutrition) are our priorities, and we are moving on them.”

Equity innovations in rfp

“Equity Innovations” in the RFP includes language describing the primary communities to be served as those that have “faced challenges such as housing segregation, educational segregation, health care inequities, mortgage and housing redrawing, and low-wage jobs,” Houschen said. Wage stagnation and poverty. Lack of rights and protections, unequal access to public resources and general political freedom, as well as more burdensome access to fresh, healthy, nutrient-dense and culturally appropriate foods in mainstream food retail.

Brezia: “A little ambitious”

Commissioner Anna Brizia, who said the issue is her passion, said she thought the scope of the work was “a bit ambitious.” Rather than reporting performance indicators, she said, the goal should be to “test concepts” and focus on planning, then move forward with implementation when possible: “I’m not saying don’t do any implementation, but ease implementation, increase planning,” she said. Along with “some subgrants or small grants.” She added, “I think we’re on the right track. I just don’t want to lose the opportunity to build this from the ground up in our community by coming up with something they’re not ready to achieve yet.”

Sean McLendon, Alachua County’s director of economic development and food systems, said staff hopes several people and organizations will submit a joint proposal because “there is no single entity” that can currently implement the food center.

In response to a question from Commissioner MaryHelen Wheeler, Prezia said the goal is to build a “sustainable regional local food system” that allows local entities to purchase locally grown food, including collecting food from farms, processing it and distributing it to farmers. retailers and restaurants, and educating people on how to cook food: “How do we create a system that allows us to work with farms and create a fair and equitable process for those farms to participate in our local food economy that is now largely coming from California, Guatemala, New Zealand and instead being from Alachua County And Bradford County?

Commissioner Ken Cornell suggested the county may be able to allocate additional funds to expand the program in future years because they have decided not to move forward with the meat processing plant.

Alford: “This is critical work… in the face of climate change.”

Chairwoman Mary Alford said the commissioners’ job is to balance the budget, oversee finances, take care of infrastructure, and “the health, safety and well-being of our citizens.” And for me, making sure that everyone can wake up in the morning and eat something, regardless of whether there’s a natural disaster or coronavirus or something else — that we have the resources to reach people quickly and get them what they need… For me, that’s work. What we are doing to address future climate change is critical. I don’t know how much other counties are looking to see what they can grow when it gets hot outside, and that’s an understatement. We have to be prepared for all of this.”

Prizzia made a proposal to “approve the scope of work and allow staff to announce the RFP after reviewing performance indicators and requirements and considering reducing the amount of requirements in terms of deliverables” and “continue to participate in food systems solutions and report back to the Board.” In March 2024 with the results.”

The proposal was approved unanimously.

Scottish inn

The board then acquired the Scottish Inn at 4341 SW 13th Street for $1.77 million; The property will be renovated for use as affordable housing. “Converting old motels into permanent housing is a national best practice we are working toward,” McLendon told the board. Funding will come from ARPA funds, and renovation funds are set aside in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program budget.

Prizzia said she was “apprehensive” about the purchase, given the delay in receiving grant money from the state for the Budget Inn property, but was comfortable moving forward because the county already had the money. The Scottish Inn is located just north of the Budget Inn.

Facilities Director Dan Whitcraft said the purchase could be finished in January, and then the design of the renovation will take about six months. The county will then issue a call for bids for construction services, and the construction timeline will be approximately nine months. He estimated that the property, which includes 31 units plus a manager’s apartment, could be ready in the second quarter of 2025.

Brezia was frustrated by the length of time before the property could be opened to residents: “We need housing now, and we have a hotel that has been sitting empty.” Whitcraft said they will cut time out of the schedule where they can, but the work requires a number of contractors to coordinate with each other’s schedules.

There is vacant land on the property, so the county could put some tiny homes there in the future, said Claudia Tuck, Alachua County’s director of community support services.

When asked how much it would cost to renovate the hotel, Tuck said the units at the Budget Inn are expected to cost about $160,000 each; Each unit has a kitchen, living room and one bedroom.

Prizzia made a motion to allow the sale to proceed, and Wheeler seconded the motion.

The proposal was approved unanimously.

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