Officials hope new entrance paves way for airport success

Tom and Elizabeth Alison stop to check out a street sign named for Tom's uncle following a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open Maj. Gen. John R. Alison Avenue at Gainesville Regional Airport Tuesday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.

For travelers, the opening of a new entrance off of Waldo Road provides another way to enter Gainesville Regional Airport.

For businesses, the road also provides access to 40 acres of airport property envisioned for a possible office park, hotel, restaurant and aviation businesses.

Airport officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning as the new road opened between the airport and Waldo Road just under a mile away. The $2.4 million road was funded mostly from federal and state grants, with the airport picking up $50,000 of the cost.

Construction took more than two years, but the road has been in the airport's plans since 1987. Gainesville rezoned the 40 acres for business industrial use in 2011.

Airport CEO Allan Penksa said any development would be in cooperation with the city and county and private investors. The airport should be finishing its master plan update in the next 30 days, after which it can start discussions in earnest about how to proceed, he said.

In addition to the 40 acres, the county has been planning to relocate the fairgrounds from adjacent land to the south and turn that property into a business park.

County economic development director Edgar Campa-Palafox said after the ribbon-cutting that county commissioners will probably take up what to do next with the fairgrounds in April.

The commission ended negotiations last September to move the fairgrounds to Auto Plus Raceway, formerly the Gainesville Raceway.

Brian Scarborough, chairman of the Gainesville-Alachua County Airport Authority, said the property addresses a need for business development space that could bring in more aviation businesses, such as Silver Airways, which opened a maintenance hangar in 2012, or more general businesses to piggyback on the success of the Airport Industrial Park, with tenants such as Florida Food Service.

City Commissioner Randy Wells, who also was in attendance, said the development plans add to other upcoming opportunities on the east side of town, such as plans to develop the area around the Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center.

He said the new road reinforces Waldo Road as a major gateway into Gainesville.

Campa-Palafox added that the county is getting ready to try to attract light manufacturing and waste management companies to land next to the transfer station three miles north of the airport.

“All reinforce the idea that the east side of town is ready to attract new investment,” Wells said.

Scarborough read a proclamation dedicating the road as Maj. Gen. John R. Alison Avenue. Alison, a native of Micanopy who attended Gainesville High School and the University of Florida, was a highly decorated World War II flying ace, one of the first Air Force special operations commanders and assistant secretary of commerce for aeronautics under President Harry S. Truman.

A marker about Alison will be placed near the entrance.

The airport was named after Alison until 1977 and the terminal was dedicated to him in 1979.

Several members of Alison's extended family were on hand for the dedication.

Nephew Tom Alison of St. Petersburg said it will be nice to have a more public honor for his uncle again.

“It really establishes a more permanent connection for us with the community where we grew up, when the airport had two flights a week and it was a good place to go have a bonfire and a party when you were in high school,” he said.

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