An empty, aging eyesore sitting near the edge of downtown Gainesville soon will be no more.
The old House of Kustom building, which sits on Broad Street near the corner of Maple Street, will be torn down to the cheers of downtown business and property owners. They say the building stands out against efforts to beautify downtown Gainesville.
“I would think anyone would want to see an eyesore like that torn down,” said Milton Robson, an owner of downtown property.
The Robson Event Center, which aims to host weddings and other events, just opened in April across the street from the House of Kustom building. The old building is hardly a complement to the upscale event center.
The House of Kustom building has served as a car lot and a storage facility, but is currently owned by the city of Gainesville.
The city bought the property three or four years ago, hoping to sell it and the adjacent parking lot for future development, said Community Development Director Rusty Ligon. City officials had originally hoped that a buyer would bulldoze the building.
But no buyers have emerged, and downtown businesses were pushing for action.
In its current state, the building has tan paint wearing away to exposed red brick stained by rust; zigzags of weeds pushing through the sun-bleached pavement; and a razor wire fence surrounding a boarded-up garage.
On a hot sunny morning this week, a stray dog enjoying the structure’s shade appeared to be the only creature that appreciates the building.
It’s certainly not a selling point when the Robson Event Center is offering tours to would-be guests.
“We had a bride say it looks like a jail with the barbed wire around it,” said Sherri Christensen, event coordinator for the event center.
With complaints mounting, Gainesville is finalizing plans to level the old building by the end of June with city crews.
“My plan would be to tear it down and grass it back up,” City Manager Kip Padgett told the Gainesville City Council yesterday.
Padgett said when city officials were recently assessing the building, several onlookers walked by to comment on the structure.
“While we were out there, we had a few people come by and tell us, ‘Y’all tear that down,’” he said.
Before the fall of the House of Kustom, an outside company will have to remove asbestos.
Among those rejoicing the move is Council Member George Wangemann. He said he recently walked by the building and was a little embarrassed by what he saw.
“We complain about the old (county) jail looking bad,” he said. “Well, this looks pretty bad to me. It would be hypocritical not to take it down.”
That sentiment is shared by downtown business owners who point out they’ve worked hard on downtown beautification efforts and want the city to do the same.