Tech City project plans ‘tallest’ climbing tower

It’s a tall order, but there are big things planned at Tech City in Alachua, Florida! Read the Gainesville Sun article here.

Developer says design now in hands of UF students would be world’s tallest indoor rock climbing facility

Alachua County could become home to one of the world’s tallest indoor rock climbing gyms, if not the tallest.

Mitch Glaeser, CEO of Emory Group Companies, and business partner Rich Blaser, CEO of Infinite Energy, are looking for a company that could build a 175-foot tower based on a preliminary design by University of Florida students. It would be the centerpiece for the San Felasco Tech City under construction off U.S. 441 in Alachua, northwest of Gainesville.

The tower would peak at 200 feet with the addition of a spire, and inside — along with a ground-floor coffee shop and a top-floor restaurant — climbers from novices to experts could find several climbing walls, including one 130 feet tall, Glaeser said.

“From all of our research, this would become the tallest indoor rock climbing gym in the world,” Glaeser said, adding that the tallest he’s found is 121 feet tall.

The Sun found similar results in searching for heights of indoor rock climbing gyms across the world. The tallest buildings in Gainesville are about 170 feet.

The tallest outdoor rock climbing wall is built into the side of the Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, Nevada. It towers at 164 feet. The tallest indoor facility The Sun could find peaks at 121 feet and is located in the Netherlands.

The proposed rock climbing gym inside the tech city’s tower would be about 9 feet taller.

The maximum building height in Alachua, according to city code, is 80 feet in industrial-zoned districts. Glaeser said he is working with the city to increase its maximum height.

“This city of Alachua has really embraced this project,” he said. “I truly believe that people from Atlanta and all over the world will travel to (Alachua) to climb this thing.”

City Manager Adam Boukari confirmed that the city is reviewing its land development code, but said it’s part of a larger review not specific to the tech city project.

“We’re looking at how developments occur in different zoning districts and what types of businesses are located in those districts,” Boukari said. “Some of the businesses that are coming up — they didn’t exist 10 years ago and no one was planning for them, so we’re reviewing how land is regulated.”

The tower will be in the San Felasco Tech City, a live-work-play concept, where seasoned companies, like Fracture that need more space, can expand in its planned 300,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space. It also will serve as a place for startups to accelerate growth, Glaeser said. Hundreds of housing units are planned for the tech city.

The genesis of the tower and eventually the rock climbing gym came from Glaeser and Blaser looking at the desires of the tech-oriented people who could eventually live at the tech city.

Glaeser said Monday that he and Blaser have found tech-minded people, mostly young people, cared about their carbon footprint, the development’s integration with nature and a concept where they could promote their health through activities.

To satisfy those needs, the partners invested heavily into solar. They are commissioning “solar trees” to power the development’s lighting; they purchased more green space adjacent to the property; and now, they believe the rock climbing gym could satisfy a demand for rock climbing space, while also satisfying tech city residents’ demand for activity space.

“Florida lacks mountains. This could be the very outlet for those in the sport to have a place to go and recreate,” Glaeser said.

The timeline for the tower and rock climbing gym depends on two elements, Glaeser said. A UF College of Design, Construction and Planning class, taught by professor Martin Gold, is working on designing the tower and a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 441 into the tech city as part of a contest created by Glaeser and Blaser.

Once the contest is over and a design is chosen, construction can begin, Glaeser said. The second piece to the puzzle is finding a tenant.

Glaeser said he is confident from the amount of interest he’s seen so far that a tenant will be signed quickly. Once a tenant is signed, he said the tower can be built in 10 months.

Mike Palmer, Gainesville resident and CEO of climbing gym company The Knot, said he and his team are researching the possibility of moving into the tech city tower but no official moves have been made and they’re still in the early stages of the process.

“No paperwork or agreements have been signed,” Palmer said.

Palmer, a climbing enthusiast, said a new rock climbing gym is long overdue after years without one in the area.

“If this thing is built to an Olympic-caliber standard, that would really set Gainesville apart as far as developing climbing as a sport,” Palmer said. “And not even Gainesville — nationally. It’s really a chance for Gainesville to be on the map for rock climbing.”

Glaeser said the 130-foot climbing run will be coveted by rock climbers but there also will be an opportunity to build several shorter routes, including a few for speed climbing. Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, both climbing a fixed route on a 15-meter wall, according to the Olympics’ website.

Sport climbing, which includes speed climbing, will make its Olympic debut in 2020 at the Summer Olympics, Glaeser said, which makes building the rock climbing wall within the next year enticing as the sport’s popularity grows.

The tower also will include 27,000-square-feet of floor space, which will be used for the coffee shop, the restaurant and could be used for yoga or office space, Glaeser said.