Hours after resigning from his position with the company he founded, Pensacola developer Quint Studer told a group of realtors on Thursday that his proposed $50 million mixed-use development in downtown Pensacola would not move forward.
Studer, 64, is the founder of Studer Group, a healthcare consulting firm. He is also the owner, with his wife Rishy, of dozens of acres of downtown real estate, as well as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball team.
Multiple attendees of the Pensacola Association of Realtors meeting confirmed Studer’s comments.
John Waas, president-elect of the Pensacola Association of Realtors, was in attendance at the association’s monthly meeting where Studer was invited to speak as a principal speaker. Waas said Studer’s speech was motivational in nature and Studer told the audience to “pay attention to what was going on around you in Pensacola.”
“It wasn’t expected,” Waas said. “He was running late because he had just announced his resignation from the Studer Group. He told us the apartments were dead and they’re not going to take place.” Waas also said Studer told the crowd he was looking to invest more in his hometown of Janesville, Wisc., where his family lives.
Reached Thursday evening, Andrew Rothfeder, a partner with Studer Community Development Group, said that Studer has been seeking assistance and public investment in his $50 million proposed mixed-use apartment development in downtown Pensacola. “We’ve been very public that without some sort of assistance from city and county the project cannot work,” Rothfeder said.
Studer denied saying the project was dead or suspended and called attendees’ characterization of his comments “wrong,” saying that his comments came in response to a question about whether or not there was a chance the project might not happen. Asked what it would take to get the project done, Studer said “it’ll take taking some of the property taxes we pay and putting it into a parking garage.”
Pensacola mayor Ashton Hayward said Thursday that he had met with Studer and his team on January 11, characterizing the meeting as “very positive.”
“The physical landscape as we know it is going to change immensely over the next three years,” said Hayward, citing other downtown developments including a new hotel on Main Street, the One Palafox Place project, and the new Downtown YMCA currently under construction. “We need to be proactive, not reactive. When I met with Quint I told him I was totally committed to finding a win-win and moving his project forward.”
“I have no reason to believe these apartments will not be built,” said Hayward. Asked specifically if the city was willing to contribute to the cost of the project’s parking garage, Hayward said that he was “committed to looking at every solution.”
The $50 million project, on the site of the former Pensacola News Journal headquarters, was expected to add more than 250 residential units in the downtown core, along with retail space, offices, and a public/private parking garage. Quint and Rishy Studer purchased the property in 2013.
The Pensacola City Council and Escambia County Commission granted the project an EDATE, or Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption, in December. The incentive would essentially waive much of the property taxes which would otherwise be charged on the finished project through 2025. However, the fate of the nearly $3 million incentive has been uncertain due to lingering questions about the incentive’s legality. The state enterprise zone program under which the incentive was awarded ended on December 31.
Studer expressed his frustration that the issue of the EDATE incentive remains unsettled. “There was no Plan B,” Studer said Thursday, “There was a good feeling that we’d get the deal done.” Essentially, Studer is now looking either for the EDATE issue to be settled in his favor, or for the city and county to charge the property taxes but dedicate the revenue toward funding a portion of the project’s parking garage.
The Studers also own the 19-acre site which formerly housed ECUA’s Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant.
In a statement released Thursday, newly named Studer Group president Debbie Ritchie said the company was “excited for Quint as he enters into this next phase of his journey.”
“As always but especially today, we celebrate the legacy Quint created and will continue to honor him through the pursuit of living Studer Group’s mission, vision and values,” said Ritchie. “Through careful development of the Studer Group team, creation of intellectual capital and processes, and through investment partnerships into Studer Group, Quint and colleagues have planned for and constructed a ‘built to last’ culture. Quint’s passion has touched each of our lives and will continue to make a difference in the Pensacola community and other areas of interest to him.”
Studer has resided in Pensacola since 1996, when he was hired by Baptist Hospital as its president. Studer left Baptist in 2000 to found Studer Group.