The long-awaited promise of more shopping and added jobs in the area around Butler Plaza is becoming a reality.
Contractors have begun clearing land and constructing underground utilities for the expansion of Butler Plaza, a project that is expected to create 3,500 jobs and equal the size of the current Butler Plaza with 1.1 million square feet of space.
“An enhanced power center is coming into being,” said Erik Bredfeldt, the City of Gainesville’s economic development director. “This area will be a big regional draw for shoppers because of the high quality and diversity of businesses that are coming.”
In the short run, the projects will employ hundreds of construction workers, Bredfeldt noted. In the long run, the new stores, restaurants and housing units will create thousands of new jobs.
Along with the building of shopping and residential areas will come a new road grid. As a part of the project development, Butler Enterprise will be building the first phase of the expansion and extension of SW 62nd Street into a four-lane, multimodal highway beginning at Archer Road and continuing north past Best Buy through the new Butler North development.
“Two traffic studies show that the new roadways will accommodate the new traffic and will prevent further congestion of Archer Road and SW 34th Street,” said Jacob Kain, a City of Gainesville transportation planner.
Butler Enterprises will also build a new bus transfer station inside the Butler Plaza expansion.
“RTS already has high ridership to Butler Plaza, and we expect it to increase with the Butler Plaza expansion,” Kain said.
Butler Enterprises, a locally owned and operated company, is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary.
“This is a milestone year for us at Butler Enterprises. We are celebrating 75 years as a part of this business community,” commented Deborah Butler, the company’s president. “Being a local, family-owned and operated company in this vibrant, growing community has been a rich experience,” she said.
“And now, (with) the next chapter in the evolution of Butler Plaza, with the development of Butler North and Butler Town Center, we look forward to bringing new shopping experience choices to our customers and new jobs to our community.”
Both “Big Box” Stores and Town Center
A large Sam’s Club and a Walmart Super Center are the first anchors confirmed for the section of the Butler Plaza expansion called Butler North. Both stores are expected to open in 2016.
Butler Enterprises is negotiating with many national retailers and restaurants that would be new to the Gainesville market.
“The Gainesville market is significantly under-retailed compared to most markets in Florida and the country,” Deborah Butler said.
“Many retailers approach us because of the high volumes produced in Butler Plaza coupled with the plaza’s visibility, accessibility and location near the University of Florida and some of the largest employers in the area.”
In addition to Butler Plaza North, which has a build-out of 758,000 square feet, Butler Enterprises is planning a 350,000-square-foot Butler Town Center.
The town center, which will be located at the intersection of Archer Road and 34th Street SW, will incorporate a traditional, pedestrian friendly design. Work on the town center will begin after the current Walmart store that occupies part of the site closes.
Details of Other Projects
In addition, other progress nearby includes:
- Construction of infrastructure for Celebration Pointe, a mixed-use development west of I-75 and north of Archer Road.
- Work on a new 60,000-square-foot addition to University Towne Center, located near Carrabba’s Italian Grill off Southwest 34th Street, is proceeding.
- Construction of 256 student housing apartments — the first phase of the West 38 project — located west of Southwest 34th Street near the University of Florida campus has been completed.
“It’s exciting that all of the challenges have been overcome and that significant projects that will strengthen the shopping and residential opportunities in Gainesville are finally moving forward,” said Nick Banks, managing partner for Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group.
Celebration Pointe was the first transit-oriented development approved by the Alachua County Commission under new county policies that push for compact and walkable mixed-use developments linked by bicycle and pedestrian paths as well as bus transit.
The approval allows for 2,225 residential units and nearly 900,000 square feet of nonresidential space. A total of 100 acres was placed in conservation land east of Lake Kanapaha. The plans also include a bridge over I-75 that will connect to the northern expansion of Butler Plaza.
The first two tenants announced were a 120-room Hotel Indigo and a Bass Pro Shops.
The Hotel Indigo brand belongs to InterContinental Hotels Group and has 55 locations in 13 countries, including six in Florida.
Other transit-oriented developments that the county commission approved are Springhills and Santa Fe Village, both located north of Santa Fe College.
“These projects demonstrate the potential for significant mixed-use development to be constructed where density can be realized as well as the preservation of the most critical natural resources on the properties,” said Jeffrey Hays, the county’s transportation planning manager.
West 38 will include a 130-room hotel, construction of which is scheduled to begin in June 2015.
NP International, the developer of West 38, has also proposed building a conference center.