Support businesses discovering Innovation Square

The interior of Ponikvar and Associates architecture firm located in Ayers Plaza at Innovation Square in Gainesville on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer
Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 6:19 p.m.

Innovation Square is drawing more than high-tech businesses.

With software and medical companies filling in the University of Florida Innovation Hub and the former Ayers Medical Plaza — and more buildings to come — businesses that provide services to other businesses are moving in to take advantage of the opportunities, both new and anticipated.

Recent months have seen two construction companies, an architect, an office furniture business and a patent attorney move into renovated offices that once housed medical practices around the old Shands at AGH site on Southwest Second Avenue at Seventh Street that is now home to the Hub.

Bigger changes are in store.

Trimark Properties hopes to break ground next month on the eight-story Infusion Technology Center next to the Hub. Managing Partner John Fleming said the developer has serious interest from a handful of tech companies, including three that want multiple floors.

And Ed Poppell of the University of Florida Development Corporation said he is working with developers who hope to bring a hotel, grocery store and apartments to the Square.

The Gainesville architectural firm Ponikvar & Associates moved to the renamed Ayers Technology Plaza building and turned its new office into a showcase for business furniture in partnership with OEC Business Interiors. Prospects interested in opening businesses in the area can drop in to see what a renovated office can look like, while giving Ponikvar and OEC a leg up to offer their services.

"If there's going to be growth in Gainesville, this is the area where that's going to happen, and we would like to be part of that," President April Ponikvar said about the decision to move from the Florida Farm Bureau building south of Williston Road near Interstate 75 into the Ayers Technology Plaza.

The firm already had designed the Innovation Hub and software company Mindtree's renovated office space in the Ayers building before moving in January and is now doing design work for other companies in the area, Ponikvar said.

Office Environments, a Herman Miller office furniture dealer based in Birmingham, Ala., opened in Gainesville in April with a small showroom in a suite at 108 SW Sixth St. Before that, local account executive Judy Osbirn worked out of a home office for a few months.

Osbirn said the company was "very aware of the innovation and growth that was going on in Gainesville."

She said she has been doing business with the University of Florida and wanted to be closer.

"We're right in the middle of everything going on in Gainesville," Osbirn said.

"We felt like this is where everything is happening, being next to the Innovation Hub and the one going up next to it. It's really helped us connect."

Within the same building, which also includes student startup company Fracture, the international commercial construction firm Skanska has opened an office.

Another commercial builder, Gainesville-based Charles Perry Partners Inc., recently moved its Diversified Projects Division to the 706 at Innovation Square building on Southwest Fourth Avenue. CPPI, which built the Hub, was expected to be one of five general contractors to put in a bid on the Infusion Technology Center, for which proposals were due Thursday, according to Trimark. Construction is expected to take 12 to 13 months.

Fleming said the prospects for the building include large established companies that either have or want to have research relationships with UF, including companies in information technology and biotech.

Trimark has renovated three former medical offices for tech companies around the Square recently and plans to renovate three more starting in the next month. Boston-based software company Mobiquity is starting a Gainesville office at 237 SW Seventh Terrace with plans to move into bigger space as the office grows toward a goal of 260 employees in three years.

Trimark, a student housing business before expanding into the office space business at Innovation Square, plans to start building apartments for students and young professionals at the southern edge of the Square on Fifth Avenue in August, Fleming said.

Poppell said the vision is to "keep the flywheel spinning" of courting and announcing new companies and building new buildings.

One of the possible announcements is BioMonde, a United Kingdom-based wound-care company that is interested in opening a lab in the Hub with 18 jobs if its application for incentives is approved.

"We've got a couple more companies to announce," Poppell said. "We've got a couple in the discussion phases. You just don't know where they're going, but they're teed up. They're interested, and we're dancing.

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