With the shutting down of Parkside on the Square, many downtown Gainesville business owners have expressed disappointment, while others feel comforted by the news.
Aimee Hoecker, co-owner of Downtown Drafts and member of the Gainesville Business Coalition, said from her perspective, pulling the plug on the development was a relief for several reasons.
“We talked to a lot of our customers who have a hard time finding an affordable place to live,” she said. “We were hoping to see something more reasonably priced, something that our customers could afford.”
Hoecker also thought the demographic of people spending $400,000 and up on a condominium, didn't fit the demographic of those who typically visit Downtown Drafts and other businesses on the square.
“They might not want to go to Atlas, they might not want to go to Mule Camp,” Hoecker said. “We felt like they might alter downtown for the worst.”
Hoecker said she hopes events like the Gainesville Spring Chicken Festival and the Beach Bash — which moved to other locations because of the impending Parkside construction — will come back to the square.
“It has honestly had a massive negative effect on our business, even with not having started construction,” she said. “If the events are coming back to the square, it’s going to be double the fun.”
City officials have not made any announcements about festivals in the wake of Parkside’s cancellation.
Chance Adams, manager of Imperial Records in downtown Gainesville, said he had mixed feelings about Parkside’s termination. His doubts mostly revolved around the chain restaurants that didn’t reflect the local business ambience.
A majority of Parkside’s retail space had been pre-leased to La Parilla Cantina, Kilwins and Tropical Smoothie Café.
“I feel like they (Parkside residents) would’ve come in here and boosted our business a lot,” Adams said. “At the same time, it’s nice to see the square not turn into a corporate place. We’re trying to bring culture to the square and it would’ve taken away a lot of the homeyness and feeling.”
But David Camalier, general manager of Avocados, said downtown Gainesville needed a development like Parkside. He looked forward to the potential influx of customers and felt like it offered the “perfect” fit for downtown.
“That was going to bring a different dynamic here to the square and I’m kind of sad,” he said. “We’ll survive.”
Lorry Schrage, who owns the old Saul’s building in downtown, said Parkside would’ve bolstered the square and that he’s “sad to see so much work put in for it not to be finished.”
Joey Summer manages multiple Gainesville properties, including the Imperial Building, which stretches along Bradford Street and holds five different businesses.
He said the area for the Parkside development has remained a void in the downtown’s landscape for a long time.
“I was pretty excited to see it,” he said. “It’s just sad that I’m 28 years old and my entire life there has been nothing there, and there’s always been something promised. It’s the square, but right now it’s a horseshoe.”
Despite expressing support for Parkside, Summer had doubts whether or not Gainesville was prepared for luxury condominiums.
In order to maintain a vibrant downtown, he said people need to live on the square.
“The question is: Can we make that affordable?” Summer said. “I personally would rather see market-rate apartments, rather than luxury. I want to see more young people on the square and young people aren’t going to be able to afford a $500,000 condo.”
Summer encouraged developers not to become dissuaded by Parkside’s failure because enhancing the square is a “worthwhile effort.”
Hoecker posed a couple of ideas with her husband and co-owner, Nick Hoecker, about potential alternatives to the multi-use development.
They recommended offering apartments aimed toward college students and millennials, opening a skating rink or constructing an amphitheater.
Whatever the outcome is, Summer hopes the next developer will create an “incredibly inspiring” facade for the community that will draw people to downtown.
“The approach needs to be to keep trying and get smarter about it,” Summer said. “The square has gotten better in the last 10 years and that’s because people are here. That’s what’s going to drive a thriving downtown.”