The plans could spur economic activity in the area—if a speedbump don’t deter progress.
By Chris Eversole
A Sanford-based company is planning to build a new hotel to replace the existing abandoned hotel at the southeast corner of Newberry Road and Tower Road.
The project could spur economic activity in nearby property, including the Tower Center shopping center to the south, says Mitch Glaeser, managing member of the Emory Group, which owns the center.
“It would be a huge boost to the area,” Glaeser says. “This area is one of the major gateways to the Gainesville area, with good visibility to I-75.”
Gainesville Investment Lodging purchased the five-acre hotel site, once the location of the Holiday Inn West, in October. The company paid $1.05 million when it purchased the site from Jacksonville-based finance company Everbank, according to the Alachua County Property Appraiser’s website. That was 10 percent of the $10.5 million value the appraiser listed for the property when it changed hands in 2006.
Previously, the hotel site had included a second property, located to the southeast. Investor Marvin Simes owns the second property, which is operating as the Oaks Hotel, Glaeser says.
Glaeser was among many area property owners who opposed plans of the Alachua County Housing Authority to convert the existing building, most recently known as the Gainesville Hotel and Conference Center, into housing for veterans—a project that did not materialize.
Although he supports housing for veterans, the proposed project would not have provided adequate support services, Glaeser said. Among other opponents of the veterans residence were the owners of the nearby Napolitanos Restaurant.
Now, Gainesville Investment Lodging is marketing an outparcel fronting Newberry Road as a site for a new restaurant for $1.5 million, according to a flyer from Orlando-based BlueRock Real Estate Services, LLC.
The flyer indicates a Marriott extended stay hotel for the remainder of the site.
A site plan that BlueRock provided shows the potential for two 100-room, four-story hotel buildings and a 6,000 to 12,000-square-foot freestanding restaurant.
The new hotel project faces a hurdle in gaining access from Tower Road.
The high volume of traffic on Tower Road in that area would make it difficult to secure access from Tower Road, says Gerry Brewington, a senior planner with the county Growth Management Department.
But Glaeser has a remedy for the access problems. He had engineering plans drawn in 2011 to build a bridge over a retention pond that separates the hotel site and the shopping center.
In 2011, Glaeser was working with Simes, the Oaks Hotel owner, on improving access between the shopping center and the Oaks Hotel.
The company that bought the old Holiday Inn site has not approached him about help with access, Glaeser says.
BlueRock’s Charlotte Smith said the property owner was working with government officials to provide access to the property from Tower Road. Brewington says a representative of the owner met with a department representative to explore options.
Glaeser says that building the bridge across the retention pond is a practical approach, although it would require approval of Alachua County, the City of Gainesville and other units of government.
In addition to building the bridge, the engineering study Glaeser secured suggests digging the retention pond four feet deeper to make additional land available for development and to make the pond function better.
“Connecing the hotel properties and the shopping center would also help reduce traffic flow on Newerry Road and Tower Roads,” Gleaser says.
“A new hotel would support businesses in the area, without adding to rush-hour traffic,” Glaeser says.
A Prospering Area
Tower Center has prospered in recent years by diversifying its tenant mix, Glaeser says. The City of Gainesville presented a beautification award to the Emory Group for its remodeling of Tower Center in 2010.
The freestanding building that formerly was a pool and spa retailer has been converted into the home of New Horizons Computer Learning Center. The former Winn-Dixie supermarket has become home of an Enterprise Rent-A-Car customer care center.
Changes also have been occurring in buildings in the shopping center not owned by Glaeser’s company. They include:
- The former Circuit City building has become the home of City College.
- The former Ben Franklin store has become a cosmetology school.
- A Baymont Inn & Suites, which has high visibility from I-75, has recently renovated. The hotel is doing well, even though guests must drive through the shopping center to reach it, Glaeser says.