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2017 in business: A year of growth

As we welcome 2018, this article in the Gainesville Sun gives a good look back at growth in the area during 2017.


The trend of development and technology growth continued in 2017 in Gainesville, as area business and population crept westward and the city maintained its push toward becoming one of the state’s largest technology incubators.

Mixed-use developments

Mixed-use developments are usually large projects that include living spaces with retail or office space attached.

In 2017, the most mammoth of the local versions, The Standard, opened its doors to apartment residents in August.

The Standard, which sits at the corner of West University Avenue and Northwest 13th Street, has dramatically changed the skyline in Gainesville near the University of Florida campus, sitting at 10 stories, with more than 60,000 square feet of retail space.

In that space, Target opened its first small-format, 23,000-square-foot store in Florida on Nov. 18. A Chick-fil-A opened Nov. 30. Plenty of The Standard’s retail space remains open.

Preceding their openings were a Publix and Starbucks across the street — illustrating the draw of retailers to such multi-use complexes.

Several other mixed-use apartment buildings with retail space continued construction in 2017.

Midtown Apartments, which will have around 15,000 square feet of retail space on its ground floor, resumed construction after a brief delay in August.

Early stage construction on The Hub on Campus, an apartment building which will have 9,600 square feet of divisible ground floor retail available, began where the building will sit when it’s complete in 2019. The strip, from 1105 to 1131 W. University Ave., was home to businesses like clothing store Wolfgang and restaurants Caribbean Spice and Kabab House.

Its proposed eight-story stature left some wondering what Gainesville will look like in a few years.

Butler Plaza and Celebration Pointe

Butler Town Center went from a demolished Walmart parking lot to a steady work in progress this year, as the shell of what will be the organic foods giant Whole Foods, along with other retail spaces, continued to rise. The popular grocery is expected to open by mid-2018.

Celebration Pointe was under construction most of 2017 as well, as workers completed the new headquarters of Gainesville-based Info Tech, a consulting services and construction software company, adding to the massive development’s short list of completed tenants. Its neighboring anchor — outdoors store Bass Pro Shops — opened last year.

Construction continued on Hotel Indigo and Regal Cinemas, both of which are scheduled to open in 2018.

Developer announced for Power District redevelopment

Gainesville city commissioners voted in October to approve Baltimore, Maryland-based Cross Street Partners as developer for the city’s Power District.

Cross Street Partners announced plans to redevelop the district, 17 acres that surround the John R. Kelly electrical power station between downtown and Depot Park. Plans include a craft brewery, tech companies, restaurants, retailers, artist studios, space for live entertainment and a public market.

Plans also show residential space, which includes 20 percent affordable-rent units, 342 market-rate units, and 45 to 50 for-sale townhouses. A parking garage and an opportunity for future parking above the Rosa Parks Downtown Station also are proposed.

Sweetwater Branch Creek, which runs underground through the area, would be brought up into the daylight from Southeast Fourth Avenue to Depot Avenue.

Power District redevelopment has been in the works for more than 15 years.

Initial plans showed a cost to the public of about $30 million. Construction could begin next fall.

Tech company expansion

Gainesville-based Optym, a logistics software company offering its services to transportation industries, expanded its Gainesville campus by 10,000 square feet in August to keep up with its quickly growing number of employees. Its new wing is dedicated to Optym’s growing airline sector and partnership with Amadeus IT Group. The new wing is expected to help Optym add about 100 employees.

The UF Innovation Hub, an incubator for small- to medium-sized companies in the early stages of development, expanded by 50,000 square feet in December. The new wing, which will open Jan. 2, will double the size of the hub, bringing its total footprint to about 100,000 square feet.

The new wing includes about 90 new office spaces, 12 labs, 10 light manufacturing spaces and some “collision spaces,” work areas where people can get together to brainstorm and collaborate in a relaxed setting.

The additional wing brings the incubator’s total office spaces to around 140, with 24 labs and workspaces, making it one of the largest incubators in Florida.

The Cade Museum

The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention was completed in 2017 after several years of fundraising and planning. It held a private grand opening in October in the form of its Inventivity Bash, where inventors and entrepreneurs enter for a chance to win the Cade Prize, a prize awarded to a startup company with great potential to positively impact society. Early-stage biotechnology startup Cellvana Biotechnology won the prize. The Cade Museum will open in mid-2018.

Sun Center Sale

Ken and Linda McGurn, long known for developing and revitalizing downtown Gainesville, closed on a package sale of eight of their properties Aug. 1, priced at $22.2 million. The sale included the Sun Center, a downtown parking garage, 32 units in the Palm Condominiums, offices in Union Street Station, the Department of Corrections building and Midnight Cafe.

Mordechai Boaziz of Maverick Investments bought the property.

Local restaurant closings and openings

In February, Gainesville mainstay Burrito Brothers closed its doors for good after what owners described as a terrible year for business. Owner Randy Akerson wrote a Facebook post citing several reasons for the downturn, including construction at The Standard that blocked the little parking that was nearby.

Akerson also noted UF canceling two football games in 2016 as a reason for the decision.

Another restaurant, Sweet Mel’s, known its burgers and southern hospitality, closed in downtown Gainesville after a year of shaky business. It had been in business six years.

Despite the closings, the Gainesville area added several new restaurants to its arsenal of local, non-chain restaurants.

Popovers on Main Cafe and Bakery, 14816 Main St., opened Sept. 13, and serves various salads, sandwich presses and of course, popovers, which are essentially large muffins.

Afternoon, a “New American Brunch” counter-service restaurant, opened in the Grove Street Neighborhood and held its grand opening in October.

Mancini’s, 3501 SW Second Ave., Suite A, an Italian restaurant, opened in November.

Box retailer openings

Rural King, 2801 NW 13th St., opened in July. The retailer carries all farm necessities like feed, mulch, tractors and more. It also carries everything for day-to-day life like furniture, food and cleaning materials.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, 2340 N. Main St., opened in October. The outlet store promises to sell brand name items for “cheap.”