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Gainesville Motel unsafe, torn down for new structure
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The Gainesville Motel, standing for more than 50 years in downtown Gainesville gets demolished Wednesday afternoon. Gainesville resident Billy Peck’s family opened the Gainesville Motel in 1957.

In its prime, the Gainesville Motel saw celebrities, businessmen, tourists and families.

But now, it’s time to say goodbye.

The motel — built in 1957 and owned by Gainesville native Billy Peck’s family — is being torn down. Demolition at the property off of Jesse Jewell Parkway began on June 18 and is expected to continue until July 15.

“It’s time for it,” Peck said. “What we’re looking at now is to get the buildings torn down and cleaned up.”

Though the motel once boasted 90 percent occupancy rates and star guests such as Larry Gatlin and Jerry Lee Lewis, it has been empty for the past five years and has since fallen into disrepair.

“The biggest hassle has been that when we closed it, the police and marshals couldn’t keep all the hobos from breaking in,” Peck said.

“They would literally take a sledgehammer and knock the door down. There’s no way of keeping somebody out.”

Peck said he would board up the property one day, and someone would break in the next. It became such a problem that now Peck is ready to see the building come down. He’s ready to plan for the future.

Reid & Reid Contractors is heading up demolition project, which costs about $70,000, said Rusty Ligon, community development director for Gainesville.

“It had just fallen into complete disrepair,” Ligon said.

He said about a year ago the city established that the building was unfit for human habitation; that it was not in compliance with the applicable building, fire and life safety codes; and it constituted a danger to the public health, safety and welfare as a result of unsafe conditions.

After discussing his options with the city, Peck applied for and received a grant through the Community Development Block Grant Program, which allows the city to pay for the demolition of unsafe structures.

However, Peck will have to pay the demolition costs back to the city when the property is transferred or sold, Ligon said.

“It would make a lot of sense if that were combined with some surrounding properties and then developed for some sort of commercial or office space,” Ligon said.

And it’s not just the Gainesville Motel that is being demolished.

Ligon said a small house next door to the motel and two old apartment buildings on East Avenue were also going to be leveled.

Peck owns a second building associated with the Gainesville Motel — built in 1962 on a separate plot of land — that will not be destroyed.

For Ligon, the motel site represents untapped possibility.

“You’ve got a property now that is unoccupied and is rundown and really an eyesore there in that midtown area,” he said.

“Having something new that would create jobs and provide a tax base and could also spur additional revenue around it would be in keeping with the vision for that midtown area.”

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