Neighbors appear to support Shands' plans for Residence Inn property

Locals, including Jean Lansford, being signed in by planning project manager Craig Brashier, gather at a neighborhood meeting about converting the Residence Inn at 4001 SW 13th Street into a drug treatment facility with a presentation by representatives from CHW, Inc. and Shands HealthCare, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 at the former Residence Inn in Gainesville. "I've lived in the neighborhood for almost 30 years," said Lansford. "I am just trying to find out more. I live in my starter home, which is about to become my retirement home."

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 10:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.

A proposal to turn the former Residence Inn on Southwest 13th Street into an addiction treatment center received the endorsement Thursday of some of the complex’s potential neighbors.

Officials from Shands at the University of Florida held a workshop at the former inn as part of the requirement to ask Alachua County to change the land use from its current commercial designation to institutional medical.

The nine neighbors who showed up Thursday had some pointed questions about who would be getting treatment there, but generally appeared pleased with the plans.

“It’s nice to see them doing something with it,” said Mike Randall, who has lived west of the former long-term lodging hotel since 1997. “I think there could be far worse things.”

Officials are calling the proposed expansion of the Florida Recovery Center at the former Residence Inn site something similar to the Betty Ford Clinic, where up to 120 patients will be able to live as they get their treatment for drug addiction and eating disorders.

Across 13th Street and slightly to the south, Meridian Healthcare Behavioral Services, which also specializes in drug treatment, recently purchased the empty Gator Lodge.

The Florida Recovery Center’s clients are mostly health professionals who are in the second phase of their treatment, coming for a 90-day stint from all over the country to get treatment at a center with a growing reputation, a Shands official said.

“Today, they are living in apartments all over Gainesville,” said Bradley Pollitt, vice president of facilities for Shands HealthCare. “They are people who have made a commitment to getting their lives back on track.”

“You say it’s like an apartment — do they sign a lease for 90 days?” asked Kristin Barnes, who lives nearby.

No lease, officials explained. Patients can leave soon after they arrive if it’s not working out, but they do have to live up to particular obligations that the community demands, the officials said.

Patients are responsible for cooking their own meals and doing their own laundry, the group was told.

“I’m very happy Shands is taking it,” said Jean Lansford, who works at Shands at UF and has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. “I know they take good care of their property.”

Next up, an application will be sent to the Alachua County Planning Department and more public hearings will ensue.

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