eda is proud to have worked on the new Home2Suites hotel- a transformational project coming to SW 13th Street! We’ve posted The Gainesville Sun article reporting on the new hotel replacing the Bambi Motel.
Gainesville Police Department Sgt. Rick Roberts remembers pulling into the Bambi Motel’s parking lot in the late 1980s and rolling up on a scrungy-looking guy cleaning an alligator tail in the back of his pickup — one he’d just poached.
“It was that blatant,” Roberts said, laughing at the memory. “It was just a total disregard for the law.”
And so it was at the Bambi, the long-standing motel at 2119 SW 13th St. that stands no more as of this week, loved by many for its iconic, old-Florida look but loathed for the petty criminals drawn to it like bugs around a porch light.
A five-story Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel will be replacing the Bambi. The new hotel will feature 95-100 guest rooms, according to the plans submitted to the city of Gainesville.
Built in 1949, county property records suggest, the Bambi throughout the 1950s and 1960s was nice enough that University of Florida faculty encouraged visiting relatives to book rooms there, said Jean Chalmers, a former Gainesville mayor.
But by the late 1980s, police were all too familiar with the gritty motel that rented rooms by the hour — a practice later outlawed, but one that made the motel a punchline for an endless number of ribald jokes.
“We would routinely respond to calls involving known prostitutes, and there were lots of narcotics sales out of different rooms there,” said Roberts, nearing his 30-year mark with GPD and retirement in just a few weeks.
Back then, he said, the motel rooms had dark wood-paneled walls, tired furnishings and an overwhelming old, musty smell that hit as you opened the door.
Southwest 13th Street business owners banded together to help police shoo the working women to other parts of town; the nearby nude-dancing establishment known to locals as Trader Tom’s that drove cheap-motel business eventually closed.
Roberts said with all the headaches it caused police, he wasn’t sad to see the Bambi go.
But Josh Braley, who recently penned a guest column for The Sun that celebrated the funky architecture of the 1940s through 1960s still found in the region, certainly will.
“It did have that unfortunate element to it,” Braley said, “but it was a landmark in its own way.”