Developers looking to build on busy Gainesville corner
Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 11:24 p.m.
Developers are negotiating with University United Methodist Church to build a four-story, mixed-use complex on church-owned property near the corner of W. University Avenue and NW 13th Street.
Called University Corners, the development would encompass two buildings at a total of 175,000 square feet and would be home to restaurants, offices, entertainment venues and apartments. Gator Plaza on NW 13th Street, which includes an Eckerd drug store and other retail interests, is on the planned site but would be renovated as part of the project, and its businesses would not have to shut down, said John Thomas, the proposal's Realtor.
"We feel it will really enhance that corner," said Thomas, a commercial Realtor with Bosshardt Realty Services Inc. in Gainesville. "It's a major alteration of an existing building as well as new construction, and it will greatly enhance everyone's opportunities on that block."
Faced with a parking shortage, the church purchased Gator Plaza and its neighboring parking lot about four years ago, said Jim Alexander, chairman of the church's board of trustees. The parking lot and a second deck with about 20 spaces serve the church's communicants on weekends and during special events, and are used by nearby businesses during the week.
Several other entities have approached the church since it bought the property, but the University Corners proposal has "gotten the closest to fruition," Alexander said. Still, many contractual and legal details are being worked out and the deal is far from approved, he said.
"We're still negotiating to see if this will meet everyone's needs," Alexander said. "Clearly, it's never been the church's intention to be a real estate property manager, but there are a lot of things we have to consider before this is final."
Part of the proposal, if approved, would include a renovation of the church's sanctuary, Thomas said. University Corners' buildings would be located on opposite sides of NW 1st Avenue.
Representatives of University Corners had a "first-step" meeting with city officials in October 2002, said Brenda Strickland, the city's permit and development review coordinator. First-step meetings solely are to inform developers of any code requirements they'll have to meet on a project, and they don't constitute any type of approval for the work.
Paperwork filed in the city's building inspection department shows that representatives of Synergy Design Build LLC, a Gainesville development company, were at the first-step meeting. It couldn't be confirmed Monday if Synergy is the actual developer behind the University Corners project.
If approved, University Corners would not impact operations in the plaza at the northwest corner of W. University Avenue and NW 13th Street. That property is home to Apartment Hunters, Burrito Bros. and Starbucks Coffee, and a neighboring parcel belonging to Target Copy also would not be disturbed, Thomas said.
Thomas said it's still unclear how much parking would be included in the development, but it would entail an "off-street" parking garage and possibly include below-surface spaces. Potential tenants for the buildings include offices, restaurants and "entertainment venues," but the complex wouldn't turn into a haven for bars and nightclubs, he said.
"This is something that would blend in with the neighborhood, the university and the church," he said. "The intent is not to make it an addition to the downtown club scene."
Joe Coombs can be reached at (352) 338-3102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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