Gainesville is fast-tracking a rezoning application so Hutton, a developer based in Chattanooga, Tenn., can proceed with purchasing and redeveloping the Lanier Plaza Shopping Center on Thompson Bridge Road.
Hutton plans to build a 41,000-square-foot grocery store with an accompanying fueling station on the property, which currently houses several businesses, including Lanier Laundromat, United Custom Electronix, El Sombrero Mexican Restaurant and Bodyplex Fitness. Hutton is not acquiring the freestanding building on the property that Blockbuster once occupied.
The property was first developed in 1983 and zoned for regional business. However, one-third of the property was zoned for multi-family residential housing, though it is unclear why, according to city officials.
The rezoning, which would eliminate the residential aspect, is needed before Hutton can proceed with acquiring the property.
“It was one of those things that everybody had overlooked for some time,” said Matt Phillips, Hutton’s vice president of real estate.
The city received an application from Hutton last week and asked the city to call a special meeting of the Planning and Appeals Board to consider rezoning the site.
“They said they really need to push this along to meet some of their deadlines,” Community Development Director Rusty Ligon said.
The expedited process, approved by City Council this week, should save Hutton about a month, Ligon added.
Councilman Sam Couvillon cast the lone dissent against approving the accelerated timeline. He said he wanted to ask some questions about the proposal but was not allowed to do so.
Couvillon later said he’s not allowed to comment on the proposed redevelopment until it is heard by the Planning and Appeals Board.
The board will take up the matter April 22, and City Council will likely hear the proposal at its May 6 meeting. There is no timeline for the redevelopment.
The proposed redevelopment means the businesses currently operating in the shopping center will be forced to close.
Robert Tyner, who has owned Lanier Laundromat for 10 years, said he was told by the property owner that he had to close shop by June, though his lease runs through September.
Tyner also owns two other coin laundry facilities in Gainesville, and he said he will consolidate his resources from the Lanier Plaza site into his other operations.
“Of course, we’d like to stay in business,” Tyner said. “But that’s progress, I suppose.”