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Protesters gather on eve of council vote

Lanier Plaza redevelopment to be decided tonight

POSTED: May 6, 2014 12:18 a.m.

Vaness Hyatt-Fugate places signs along Thompson Bridge Road.

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Several Gainesville residents gathered along Thompson Bridge Road on Monday morning and afternoon to wave signs and pass out fliers protesting plans to redevelop the Lanier Plaza shopping center.

Citing concerns about traffic and environmental impacts, how the proposed project squares with the city’s 2030 comprehensive plan and what will become of the existing businesses in the shopping center, residents staked signs in the ground at Lanier Plaza urging passers-by to support their cause.

“This is obviously something we don’t want,” said Vanessa Hyatt-Fugate, who lives in a neighborhood adjacent to the shopping center.

The City Council will meet tonight to vote on a proposed rezoning so the redevelopment can proceed. City planning staff has recommended approval of the project with several conditions, but the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board voted 4-2 on April 22 to recommend denial of the rezoning.

Polestar LLC, a subsidiary of the Tennessee-based developer Hutton, plans to demolish the existing shopping center and build a 42,000-square-foot grocery store and an accompanying 12-pump fueling station. The developer is not acquiring the freestanding building on the property that Blockbuster once occupied.

Built in 1983, Lanier Plaza houses the Lanier Laundromat, Sun Spa, United Custom Electronix, El Sombrero Mexican restaurant and Bodyplex Fitness.

These owners roundly oppose the planned redevelopment, which would put them out of business. Indeed, Bodyplex proudly displayed in its window Monday a handwritten sign denouncing the redevelopment brought by one of the protesters.

“We’re trying to save their business,” said Connie Propes, who lives close to the shopping center.

Hyatt-Fugate said she understands she might be fighting a lost cause, acknowledging the redevelopment is likely to get approval from City Council.

“It shows me that (city officials) feel tax dollars are more important that what the community wants or what the community needs,” she said.

Propes said she had received support from businesses along Thompson Bridge Road as she handed out fliers urging them to oppose the redevelopment.

With five gas stations and six grocery stores in the immediate area, protesters questioned the need for the redevelopment.

“We’re just really disappointed that it has come to this,” Propes said.


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