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Lanier Plaza developer eyes 2nd makeover
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Polestar LLC, a subsidiary of Tennessee-based developer Hutton, caused a stir in recent weeks with its plans to redevelop the Lanier Plaza shopping center on Thompson Bridge Road.

But the controversy surrounding that project, which dozens of residents vocally opposed at Gainesville planning board and City Council meetings, is unlikely to be recreated when Polestar moves ahead with redeveloping the Lanier Commons shopping center at Browns Bridge and McEver roads.

Polestar has proposed tearing down a portion of the shopping center that once housed a Food Lion, building in its place a new 42,000-square-foot grocery store and pharmacy, plus a 12-pump fueling station.

Gainesville planning officials said Polestar had submitted preliminary architectural plans and that a civil engineering plan is under review. Land disturbance and building permits must also be acquired before proceeding. However, no rezoning is necessary, meaning the redevelopment will not have to face the scrutiny of public hearings that nearly derailed the Lanier Plaza redevelopment.

Planning officials said Polestar was still in negotiations to purchase the property. Representatives from Polestar did not return calls for comment.

Gainesville Planning Manager Matt Tate said the construction timeline was about six months beginning in June, assuming no complications arise.

Because only part of the shopping center will be demolished, the Family Dollar store, a Mexican restaurant and a deli will remain in business.

However, at the other end of the shopping center, businesses are preparing for the worst.

An employee at the Asia Café, which serves Chinese and Thai food, said he had been told the restaurant would be evicted from the shopping center in the next month or so. He said he was unsure whether the restaurant would relocate or be forced out of business.

A representative at the Farmers Insurance office said it was still up in the air how his business would be impacted, adding he would wait until the ink dried on the sale of the property before deciding what to do.

Meanwhile, Freedom Tax Service has already vacated. Workers were seen cleaning out the inside of the store last Friday.

But the biggest difference between the proposed redevelopment of Lanier Commons and Lanier Plaza has to do with location.

Residential neighborhoods dot the landscape around Lanier Plaza, and those homeowners united to oppose the project.

But Lanier Commons sits along a stretch of Browns Bridge Road that includes few homes and lots of commercial enterprises.

Speculation is already ramping up about who the tenant of the grocery store will be.

Opposition to the Lanier Plaza redevelopment stemmed in part from the assumption Wal-Mart was moving in, though Polestar has yet to confirm or deny this.