Will 2007 be a year of big growth in Gainesville?


Published: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 31, 2006 at 9:01 p.m.
This year could be a big one for Gainesville's urban development, with long-awaited projects expected to get under way in the central city and massive new developments being planned on its edges.
Despite a softening national real estate market and a burst of new projects in 2006, officials say development in Gainesville will continue to grow in 2007.
"We're still seeing a very steady pace of development in the center city and in all areas that surround the urban core," Gainesville Community Development Director Tom Saunders said. "The sheer number of projects completed or under way this year or planned for next year shows the momentum has not slowed."
While 2006 was mainly defined by midsized projects, almost 20 in all, that each added a few dozen apartments or condos to the city, some of the largest projects planned for Gainesville are expected to begin construction this year. Among these are the 10-story Gainesville Greens tower and a Hampton Inn in the downtown area and the Jefferson on 2nd Avenue student apartment complex that will add about 900 residents to the downtown area.
Then there's University Corners, the eight-story, three-block project at W. University Avenue and NW 13th Street, one of the largest and most anticipated projects in urban Gainesville. After several years of fits and starts, the project seems to be on the verge of getting its final approvals and could break ground by the middle of the year.
"I think there's a very good chance that three or more of our larger projects will break ground next year," City Manager Russ Blackburn said referring to 2007.
Development in 2007 also shows signs of shifting eastward, bucking a trend of westward expansion that has characterized Gainesville's growth for years. A "Haile Plantation-style" development could have more than 1,300 homes north of the city limits.
"It really does represent suburban growth in a new direction," Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said.
Further east, the city could begin working on the redevelopment of the now-empty Kennedy Homes affordable housing site in a plan designed to revitalize the southeast area with market rate, owner-occupied housing. The city is now going through the final steps of purchasing the property.
An attempt to ensure that there is housing within the price range of average working families could be one of the main topics of discussion this year. The general rise in the price of housing has been getting a greater focus recently with news that owners of several mobile home parks in the city are considering redeveloping the sites.
"I think the city needs to do what we can to make sure there are affordable units in the city," Blackburn said. "The county and other jurisdictions have a role to play in making sure there is affordable housing available as well."
Jeff Adelson can be reached at (352) 374-5095 or adelsoj@gvillesun.com.

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