There were signs in 2014 that good news was on the horizon in Gainesville. Commercial real estate sales prices were up nearly 30 percent while pent-up demand for properties resulted in a sales-volume increase of 60 percent, according to reports.
Then activity in 2015 removed most remaining doubt, as the market continued to surge with cranes rising right along with optimism.
Now it’s official. When it comes to construction, Gainesville no longer is largely a stopping point on Interstate 75 — as it had fatefully become during an extended industry downturn. The city’s commercial real estate is bustling, particularly in retail, rental housing, technology and health care.
Why the turnaround? While the city’s population hasn’t grown significantly, one can look to the University of Florida’s roughly 52,000 students and Santa Fe College’s 20,000 students, in addition to a well-established health-care system and an emerging technology base. Those components, in place for some time, have helped. The real difference is demeanor. Strict land-use regulations have been eased, eroding barriers to development. Add in several million dollars of investment and you have it: serious growth.
“We’re seeing it more and more often,” says John Fleming, managing partner of Trimark Properties, a real estate developer and management firm headquartered in Gainesville that specializes in commercial and multifamily properties. “When business owners are considering where to move their companies, they are comparing the financial incentives that each location is eligible for. Those incentives can make a large impact on the company’s annual net revenues, both in terms of tax savings and in terms of helping them win government contracts.”
Gainesville, in turn, is winning favor.
Where? For starters, there’s aptly named Celebration Pointe — Gainesville’s first transit-oriented-development, designated by virtue of frequent scheduled bus connections to area communities, which are funded in part by the Celebration Pointe Development Partners. A new vehicle/pedestrian bridge across I-75 will provide additional access.
A first phase of the $200 million project, consisting of 125 acres alongside the interstate and busy Archer Road, is scheduled to open next October with 350,000 square feet of open-air retail space, anchored by a Bass Pro Sportsman’s Center and ultra-luxurious 10-screen Regal Cinema. Other elements include Class A office space, a 137-room hotel and apartments. One tenant, Info Tech, coincidentally a provider of infrastructure construction management software, already has consumed 20 percent of that office space with its 60,000-square-foot headquarters.
Nearby, the new Butler North, an extension of sprawling Butler Plaza, adds more than 750,000 square feet of retail to an area that is literally bursting at the seams — the southwest part of the city, one mile from UF and within a two-mile radius of at least eight major employers. Butler Plaza is considered the largest “power retail center” in Florida and among the largest in the Southeast.
As Butler North progressed, Butler Town Center broke ground, with another planned 350,000 square feet.
Elsewhere, on a prime corner adjacent to UF, The Standard at Gainesville, a 10-story mixed-use complex, is taking to the sky. Two existing apartment complexes are being demolished and replaced in time for the fall 2016 semester by The Retreat, consisting of 188 cottage-type units and 787 bedrooms.
The developer, Landmark Properties, is also moving forward on a nearby project, tentatively called Gator Crossing that would feature at least two six-story apartment buildings with a total of 150 apartments, plus ground-floor retail and a parking garage.
Not far away, UF’s Innovation Hub, buoyed by an $8 million grant, is planning to double in size to roughly 100,000 square feet. The expansion, composed of an adjoining building, will create more room for startups and business ventures like Tera Insights. The large-scale data processing and security company, founded by a UF professor, was previously located in downtown Gainesville. It is relocating to attract more clients, create more jobs, expand office space and be closer to UF.
Also, the expansion will accommodate the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Center. The grant comes from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the organization that provided initial funding for the Hub’s opening in 2011. Notably, Trimark Properties is one of the primary landowners in and around the Hub.
Finally, last January ground was broken on the UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital, a $415 million project.
The hospitals, encompassing more than 520,000 square feet, will be housed in one contiguous building. Consolidating cardiac and neurologic experts in one location will substantially improve care, according to UF Health. They are expected to open in 2018.
The prognosis in Gainesville: healthier commercial real estate.
More From Gainesville
The Cade Museum for Creativity + Invention is inviting entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers and early-stage companies to apply for the 7th Annual Cade Museum Prize competition.
The deadline for entries is Jan. 31.
Open to all Florida residents and Florida-based companies, the competition comes with a cash prize of $50,000, as well as in-kind incentives awarded to the most innovative market-bound idea. Contestants will be judged on the following criteria: how truly creative is the idea; how large is the potential impact of the invention; and whether the invention can be marketed successfully?
Four finalists will be announced March 28, and final presentations will be made April 30.
The 2015 winner, Orlando-based Everix, impressed judges with its development of high-performance, multipurpose optical filters. Earlier winners included an innovative system that matches students with a highly qualified tutors; an improved biodegradable plastic that breaks down under natural conditions in less than 10 years; and a revolutionary sound-monitoring technology that uses catheters in common procedures such as labor and delivery and cardiac operations.