In the last several months, a very interesting trend in commercial real estate has emerged in Gainesville. Restaurants and retailers have become increasingly interested in Gainesville like never before. Users who have never had a presence in this market are opening stores at a rapid pace; they have been looking at Gainesville from the outside for years, and now they want in.
Trader Joe’s, a popular specialty grocer, is under construction in Butler Plaza; World of Beer, which will feature huge selections of craft beers, is opening in Tioga Town Center; Ulta and DSW have opened new locations near the Oaks Mall; and Chuy’s Tex-Mex Restaurant chose Gainesville as its first location for corporate expansion in Florida. In addition to these completed deals, rumors are prevalent about expansion plans for other big names like Whole Foods, Academy Sports and L.A. Fitness.
Because of some unique characteristics of our city, we attract a wide variety of interest from regional and national users typically not found in markets the size of Gainesville. Retailers, restaurants and the commercial developers representing them are clamoring for sites and storefronts in the area.
Here are the top four reasons why:
- Stability: The largest employers in Gainesville are the University of Florida, Shands, the VA Medical Center and other public entities like Santa Fe College. These large institutions provide a very stable foundation for our local economy and insulate our area from the large economic swings other communities have experienced. This stability is very appealing to retailers and restaurants that prefer steady, measured growth versus large peaks and valleys.
- Unique Environment: Many markets in Florida were overbuilt in better economic times and have large supplies of vacant space. Our firm is representing a new, mixed-use development called Park Avenue at Santa Fe, which is located in the northwest section of Gainesville. Jason Robertson, president of Urban Habitats, Inc., saw the development potential in Gainesville on his first visit. “Being active in the commercial mixed-use development sector, we are always looking for markets with growth and opportunity,” Robertson said, when asked why he was bullish on Gainesville. “There is tremendous pent-up demand, and the market does not suffer from oversupply like other areas.” This ensures the ability to construct and stabilize a development project without undue risk and exposure.
- Brand Transfer: Gainesville has a diverse population that is continually being renewed with professors, doctors, professionals and students moving here from other places. This fact creates a very unique opportunity for brand identification and growth. Orlando-based 4 Rivers Smokehouse is currently under construction on its first restaurant outside the Orlando area. John Rivers, CEO of 4 Rivers, articulates why they chose Gainesville. “There are a number of students attending UF and Santa Fe from the Orlando area who bring awareness of our brand with them.” He added, “Long term, many of those students move to other markets in Florida and beyond, and they carry that brand awareness with them. This aids our long-term growth strategy.”
- Community Support: Word travels fast in Gainesville, and the community has a history of rallying around new businesses when they come to town. Fresh Market broke company records with huge sales after opening in Gainesville. Five Guys Burgers and Fries enjoyed similar record breaking success when it opened its first location on Archer Road. Our residents love to support new restaurants and stores; each announcement of a new retailer or restaurant seems to always bring a wave of momentum and excitement. It’s not always easy to achieve this level of excitement in areas of more dense population because competition is so fierce.
The good news for Gainesville is this seems to be an increasing trend. The more success retailers and restaurants have in our city, the more we gain attention from the ones not yet here. Increasing the supply of high-end shops and eating establishments enhances the quality of life in Gainesville and makes us a more attractive option for professionals and companies looking to relocate here.
RUMOR HAS IT…
Here is a list of some companies rumored to be looking for retail space in Gainesville…
- Whole Foods
- Academy Sports
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- LA Fitness
- Hobby Lobby
- Burger Fi
- Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt
- Orange Leaf
Nick Banks is the managing director of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group, a full service firm located in Gainesville offering brokerage, management, and mortgage banking services for commercial real estate clients. Nick is a 17 year veteran of commercial real estate and a graduate of the University of Florida. www.FrontStreet.net