State pushes ahead with prison on 39th Ave.

Published: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 12:02 a.m.

It appears the state is continuing its plans to build a new $250 million prison on NE 39th Avenue, despite previously stated opposition from local officials.

Critics contend NE 39th Avenue has enough correctional facilities and that another one will hamper efforts to spur business growth there.

Alachua County Growth Management Director Steve Lachnicht in a Saturday memo wrote that a meeting was held last week with a consulting engineer for the state Department of Corrections regarding permitting requirements for a correctional facility next to the state Department of Transportation administrative office complex.

The two-phase facility would eventually have 2,600 beds, an 1,100-bed mental health facility, a shooting range, dog kennels, 25 residences for officers and apartment housing for officers in transition.

"The projected size of the site is approximately 50-60 acres, although this may expand once plans have been finalized," Lachnicht wrote, adding, "The construction at final buildout is estimated to be $250,000,000."

DOC first contacted the county last year about the facility. It drew alarm for some officials, including County Commissioner Rodney Long.

Long said that several state incarceration facilities along with the county jail have already burdened the corridor.

Meanwhile, the county is planning to build a commerce center at the nearby fairgrounds as part of Plan East Gainesville, an effort to spur development in the area.

"It's totally opposite of the vision we have, and nobody from DOC thought to contact us about whether we would want it there," Long said last year.

Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said last year that she didn't believe the public would favor another corrections facility there.

"My first reaction is that it doesn't fit with the vision and goals that we have with respect to east Gainesville and the airport," Hanrahan said. "It's kind of hard for me to imagine that it would be very warmly received. In our community we have really sought to try to build business clusters around the airport that have either transportation-related uses or uses that are affiliated with improvement of the community like the new eastside campus of (the University of Florida). I think we are probably going to hear quite an outcry about it."

In Saturday's memo, Lachnicht wrote that the consultant, Robert D. George, has a contract with the state to complete site designs and obtain necessary permits that would allow construction to begin when funding is available.

The state at some point will hold a neighborhood workshop to explain the project. Permitting applications are expected to be submitted in three to four months once that workshop is held and preliminary studies including an environmental assessment have been completed.

Contact Cindy Swirko at 374-5024 or at

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