By Josh Steppling
Construction has begun on new roads in Innovation Square with a goal of creating small, “walkable” blocks. This framework will facilitate interactions between individuals in the science and technology community.
The new roads, SW Ninth Street and SW Third Avenue, contribute to Innovation Square’s master plan of establishing an animated live-play-work community stretching between downtown Gainesville and University of Florida campus. The project will connect research and talent at UF with the private sector to accelerate scientific and technological development and local economic growth.
Land for the streets has been donated to the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) by the University of Florida Development Corporation (UFDC). The streets will intersect in the lot that once housed Alachua General Hospital (AGH).
By turning the old Alachua General Hospital “super-block” back into a walkable, pedestrian-friendly grid of interaction, SW Ninth Street and SW Third Avenue are quite literally paving the way for companies who wish to relocate and create jobs here in Gainesville.
The addition of the new infrastructure in Innovation Square, according to CRA engineer Diane Gilreath, sets the stage with necessary utilities, roadways and networks so that developers and companies hoping to set up shop in the technology community “just need to show up.”
“We’re setting an example for future projects to come,” said Gilreath. “Reestablishing a street grid to make more walkable-size blocks has been proven in city planning to really contribute to a healthier community – a more lively interaction and a more animated pedestrian area. It’s one of the ingredients in the recipe of a successful community.”
SW Ninth Street and SW Third Avenue will intersect in Innovation Square’s 40-acre core and will eventually be surrounded by over 5 million square feet of research, retail, residence, laboratory and office space.
Companies interested in space within Innovation Square have ranged from dry cleaners and restaurants to software developers and hotels. By encouraging the interaction of different disciplines in Innovation Square, the community has created a wide variety of jobs that foreshadows economic growth to come.
Local company Oelrich Construction, has added jobs in the Gainesville area during its management of the construction of SW Ninth Street. According to project manager Derek Dykes, Oelrich has hired “all local subcontractors” for the project, with jobs ranging from landscapers and material providers to site workers and pavers.
Through SW Ninth Street and SW Third Avenue, a framework is being created to facilitate the creation of local businesses and the relocation of businesses outside of Gainesville. The roads support the continued mission of Innovation Square: to create a sustainable, interactive community that creates jobs and a higher quality of life for those living, working or visiting Gainesville and surrounding areas.