Innovate November 2017

Gainesville’s Real Estate Industry Shapes Growth in Urban Core


Written By: Genevieve Howard

One of the most telling indicators of a thriving, successful city is the quality of its real estate. The development of state-of-the-art, modern buildings and careful preservation of historic structures not only creates a more aesthetic town, but also leads to improved resident satisfaction and more competitive business industries. As a whole, real estate growth is a powerful barometer of the robustness of the local economy.

Over the past several years, the University of Florida and the City of Gainesville began to recognize the need for a more attractive, updated urban landscape that reflected the city’s rapidly-growing innovative reputation while complementing its beautiful natural scenery. With the University of Florida climbing U.S. rankings and the nationally-renowned UF Health Shands network continuing to make groundbreaking medical advancements, it became apparent that the rest of the city’s outdated infrastructure needed a rejuvenation to keep up with the competitiveness of its industries. Consequently, over the last few years, Alachua County has experienced a substantial real estate boom.

In turn, residents watched as Gainesville began to transform before their eyes. Beloved historic buildings were restored, enhancing their long-forgotten charm, while new, cutting-edge buildings were completed. Public spaces, where both the city’s natives and visitors have created countless memories, were also revitalized.

Initiatives to improve Gainesville’s urban core were elevated even further in 2015 when the University of Florida began devising its Strategic Development Plan. Working in conjunction with the local government and developers, the team laid out a proposal to reconstruct Gainesville into a “New American City” over the next 50 years by improving livability, encouraging sustainability and better uniting the university with the community.

Future site of Ingenuity, a commercial office space which will feature open work spaces, private offices, and conferences rooms.

This period of significant real estate development and general city beautification has propelled the beginning of what the community and developers alike hope is an overall economic revival. This revitalization is propelling the city to evolve from a relatively small, cozy town centered solely around the University of Florida into a thriving metropolitan area with attractive residential regions and commercial industries that rival those of bigger cities in Florida.

Though the town is far from the peak of this period of urban enhancement, we are already seeing the direct benefits the development of real estate is bringing to Gainesville’s economy and its inhabitants.

Bass Pro Shop’s Store in Gainesville’s Celebration Pointe.

Commercial Retail Real Estate

The development and renovation of commercial real estate, which has witnessed considerable growth in both its office and retail divisions, has played an essential role in driving the city’s new era of city reconstruction. With Gainesville’s retail scene on the verge of explosion, the town will finally receive the upscale shopping centers it so desperately needed.

One of the city’s most anticipated retail developments is the Neighborhoods at Butler off of Archer Road.

Progression on Butler North is winding down after it received almost entirely new infrastructure and retail plazas over the past several years. Retailers and restaurants previously located in the general Butler area, such as Walmart, Lowe’s and Olive Garden received brand-new buildings, while several new national chains, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Culver’s, Longhorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze, joined the region.

Butler Enterprises is now focusing development efforts on the nearby Butler Town Center, while just across the newly-constructed connector bridge over Interstate 75, Viking Companies continues to work on Celebration Pointe.

Both of these mixed-use developments are reminiscent of the upscale, open-air lifestyle malls such as the St. John’s Town Center in Jacksonville. A more diverse repertoire of dining options has been promised, from P.F. Chang’s in the Town Center to Kilwins in Celebration Pointe, along with additional entertainment options and an expected wide selection of clothing, toy, sports and home goods stores. Celebration Pointe’s Bass Prop Shop already made a splash in the area after it opened in late 2016, and a new luxury Regal Cinemas, complete with a full bar in its lobby and deluxe theaters with king-size recliners and padded footrests, is set to open to an eager crowd by the end of the year.

A varied assortment of retailers is critically important for a city, as it is often what transforms a rural town into a flourishing metropolitan area. For some, the widespread availability of shopping centers can make or break their decision on whether or not to move to a city.

Commercial Office & Lab Real Estate

  There has been a similar increase in the development of commercial office and lab space around Gainesville, specifically in Innovation Square, the 16-acre district located between downtown and the University of Florida campus. After the 2011 opening of the Florida Innovation Hub, a University of Florida-affiliated facility offering office and lab space specifically for tech start-ups, the area began to expand with the addition of private, upscale office buildings fit for companies on the verge of corporate success.

Already, Innovation Square has brought the city a nationally-competitive assortment of science and tech companies, many of whom chose to locate their business in Gainesville over larger cities with high-profile professional scenes such as Austin and Atlanta.

Local developer Trimark Properties has been responsible for much of the area’s expansion, building new luxury offices and renovating pre-existing structures to make them fit for the progressive tech companies that call them home. The company completed the 15,000-square-foot, two-story Nimbus office building in 2015, it is currently building the 50,000-square-foot, four-story Ingenuity office building just a few blocks away.

Ingenuity and Nimbus alone can accommodate a combined total of 375 staff members, and when added to the various office buildings scattered around the region, the number of jobs created from these developments ranges in the thousands.

The Innovation Hub itself has created over 800 new jobs, and after Phase II is completed within the year, this number is expected to double. With another 60,000-square-foot, four-story mixed-use building developed by Concept Companies and Gateway Development planned off of 2nd avenue, this area is certain to continue this period of growth that will positively stimulate the city’s economy.

Commercial development of Gainesville’s healthcare facilities is thriving as well, mostly due to the growing UF Health Shands network. Construction is finishing up on the new UF Health Heart & Vascular and Neuromedicine Hospitals, which will collectively offer over 521,000-square-feet of premium medical facilities beside UF Health Shands’ main location off of Archer Road. UF Health Shands plans to continue this momentum with the addition of another 72,000-square-foot healthcare facility at their Springhill site off of Southwest 39th Avenue that will open in August 2018. This new facility will be home to a variety of medical practices and will accompany the existing 108,000-square-foot Springhill building that was built back in 2012.

The new construction and renovation of these upscale offices, labs and medical spaces encourages companies to establish headquarters in the city, therefore opening up job opportunities for current residents and encouraging other professionals to relocate and declare permanent residency in Gainesville. The thousands of jobs that have already been created have led to an increased demand for more housing options in the city, and with an influx of new residents forecasted in Gainesville’s near future, real estate leaders are preparing by developing new residential living options

Multifamily & Residential Real Estate

The multifamily sector over the past several years has been dominated by apartments targeted towards University of Florida students. This trend doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon as several more are in the works around campus: Trimark Properties is adding to its portfolio of apartments in Gainesville by building Cascades Luxury Apartments adjacent to its Ingenuity building on 4th Avenue in Innovation Square; Tampa-based development group 908 Group is building The Nine off of Southwest 13th Street; and Roger Development Group is currently constructing Midtown Apartments, located directly behind University Avenue’s famous strip of bars.

Due to this emphasis on student housing, there has been a general lack of development of upscale residences in Gainesville geared specifically towards young professionals. As new start-ups, healthcare facilities and retailers continue to open, however, employment opportunities are increasingly being created and more people are being incentivized to relocate to Gainesville. The need for more housing options for this demographic has been heightened, and attention is now beginning to shift to this market.

Several multifamily properties catered towards nine-to-fivers are in the works around the city. Celebration Pointe will feature City Place Apartments, while the Butler Town Center will feature both The Residences and The Terraces, all tailored toward the young professional lifestyle and ideal for those working in the surrounding retailers or UF Health Shands facilities off of Archer Road.

Another notable development, Park Avenue at Santa Fe, opened last fall off of 39th Avenue. This multifamily community features 298 apartments in a convenient location for the professionals working at Santa Fe College, the UF Health Shands Springhill site or even in Alachua at Progress Park.

There are a few apartments and condominiums downtown tailored towards the professionals working for the university, the surrounding businesses and even the local government, however most of the available options, such as Regents Park and The Palms, were built in the mid-2000s. As Innovation Square and the area between downtown and the university continues to expand, developers have noted the need for newer, more luxurious apartments and condos targeted toward the professional demographic. In addition to its luxury office buildings, Trimark Properties has forthcoming plans to build much-needed luxury condos in Gainesville walking distance to Innovation Square within the next two years.

Young single-household working professionals are not the only sector of the population expected to rise in Gainesville. With more job opportunities comes more families with children and working parents, generating the need for more family-oriented residential neighborhoods.

Gainesville will welcome several of these communities west of Interstate 75 near Haile Plantation and Tioga Town Center over the next few years, including Oakmont, Gloria’s Way, Amariah Park and two additional phases at Town of Tioga. These new subdivisions will add over 4,000 new houses to Gainesville and will accommodate any increases in city residents.

Though there are concerns about whether or not the geographically small town can handle this increase in populace and overall traffic, Gainesville’s projected growth and surging business industries arguably make these residential additions necessary.

A New Era of Gainesville Defined by Its Real Estate

Though Gainesville’s esteemed academia and medical achievements helped the city establish a recognizable reputation, it is its emerging real estate industries, which are developing high-quality buildings all across the region, that are invigorating the economy and transforming the city into an enticing place to both reside and establish a business.

Innovation Square office spaces

The city’s population has already increased by over 6,800 residents from 2010 to 2016, and with an anticipated rise in both employment opportunities and residential housing options, it is all but guaranteed that Gainesville will experience even more growth over the next five years that will forever change the town’s narrative.

 

 

 

GENEVIEVE HOWARD is the marketing coordinator at local real estate firm Trimark Properties. A 2016 graduate from the University of Florida’s Heavener School of Business and devoted Florida Gator fan, she is passionate about her career that allows her to blend her love for communications, marketing, real estate and history.


Photography provided by Trimark Properties

 

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