County may start looking closely at business park


Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.

As Alachua County negotiates with a local raceway on relocating its fairgrounds, the plan to redevelop the current fairgrounds site as a business park is still in the early stages of development.

The National Hot Rod Association, which runs the Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, better known as the Gainesville Raceway, is negotiating with the county over establishing a new fairgrounds there.

The fairgrounds' current site, located at 3100 NE 39th Ave., just south of Gainesville Regional Airport, was marked for redevelopment by Plan East Gainesville, a special area plan on which the county and the city of Gainesville collaborated. The document suggested the fairgrounds' relocation, which would make room for a business park in east Gainesville.

The county has a draft master plan for the future business park, but the project is pretty much on hold while the fate of the fairgrounds is determined, Acting County Manager Richard Drummond said.

The draft plan lays out a property configuration implementing a mix of development uses, including airport-support operations as well as retail, hotel and office space.

Knowing the park is a workable idea, it is time to expand it from a sketch to a model the marketplace will embrace, Drummond said.

The plan was developed with input from the Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority, which is building a new access road at the airport that could also offer entry to the future business park.

The airport authority will complete its new access road this year, which could be used as an entry point for the county property, airport CEO Allan Penksa said. The airport authority has about 40 acres of land near the current fairgrounds site it is looking to develop for both aeronautical and other uses.

The airport and county could benefit from working together on developing the business park and marketing their respective properties, Pensksa said.

County staff will focus on conducting market research in the coming months to determine what kinds of businesses would be interested in locating there, Drummond said. The site also will be evaluated to determine infrastructure and other needs.

The county did a market study in the mid-2000s and will create an updated one over the next nine months or so regarding the kinds of uses, such as manufacturing or retail operations, that would be a good fit for the site, said Chris Dawson, senior transportation planner with the county's growth management department. Its staff is in the process of drafting a scope for the study.

"There's a lot of factors that have changed just in the economics of development in Alachua County," Dawson said. "There are a lot of trends that have changed."

Gainesville's Innovation Square, for example, could impact the kinds of companies that are considered for the park.

With input from the new market study, staff can design a better plan based on the users they anticipate, he said. Manufacturing companies would have different site needs than retail or office-centric ones would.

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