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Demolition of buildings signals new beginnings for Gainesville's Midtown district
Juan Guzman of Big Dog Demolition sprays water to keep dust down as the walls of the old Town View Plaza off Bradford Street are pulled down Monday. The demolition is making way for a planned office building and hotel complex. - photo by Tom Reed

What was once Town View Plaza is now nearly brick dust, but its demolition signals something much bigger is coming to Gainesville.

The demolition of the three buildings between Bradford and Main streets is the most visible sign of progress toward a $35 million development in Gainesville’s Midtown district that promises to kick-start the area’s redevelopment — City View Center.

A sign on the corner of Bradford Street and College Avenue pledges that construction of at least part of the development — two multistory office buildings, a 250-room hotel with a pedestrian bridge connecting the development to the Georgia Mountains Center — is coming in 2009.

Lee Caswell, a partner in Gainesville City Center LLC, the developers responsible for the project, said they hope to begin construction on Phase I of the development early next year.

The developers already have submitted civil engineering plans for the first phase of construction to Gainesville’s Planning and Development Department for recommendation, Planning Director Rusty Ligon said.

The plans for Phase I call for a 125,000-square-foot, nine-story office building and a three-story parking deck with 376 spaces situated on about 5.5 acres of land, Ligon said.

The plans Gainesville City Center LLC submitted to the department outline proposals for tree protection and design of the site’s utilities, driveways and storm water detention facilities. Review of those plans, which must be approved by multiple city departments, takes about two weeks, Ligon said.

The developers already have some potential occupants for the office building, Caswell said.

Once complete, the planned City View Center development, which spans the Town View Plaza shopping center and two smaller strip malls, will include a bridge that will make it easier for pedestrians to cross Jesse Jewell Parkway, passing from the development’s hotel and office buildings to the Georgia Mountains Center.

The city has agreed to pay no more than $3 million for the construction of that bridge if the 250-room hotel comes to fruition, City Manager Bryan Shuler said. Most likely, the bridge will be built ahead of the hotel as an attraction for possible buyers, Shuler said.

The city would not reimburse the developers for the bridge until the hotel is built, Shuler said.

Caswell declined to comment on the construction of the bridge.

The City View Center also will include redevelopment of the property where the city’s Public Safety Facility currently stands. That area, however, cannot be developed until 2010.

Gainesville City Center LLC closed a deal in January to purchase Gainesville Fire Station No. 1 and Gainesville Police headquarters from the city for $2 million, the appraised value of the property. The purchase agreement gives the city enough time to develop its new Public Safety facility, which will be located near the water department, and move out of the current one by July 2010.

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