South Main Fire Station Update

by Joe Courter and Chris Fillie

It appears, at this point, that the purchase of the land south of 5th Avenue, which currently houses Repurpose Project, Vibrant Community Development, Church of Holy Colors, Gainesville Compost, and the Civic Media Center/Citizens Co-op/Wild Iris parking lot, as well as the Everyman Sound Company property, will be bought by the City of Gainesville and become the location of the new Fire Station Number 1. This change will not affect the use of the parking lot or other entities using the land until January 1, 2015.

Preliminary drawings of the site show at least 20 and up to 60 public parking spaces on the land, which should lessen the impact on the current operations of the various South Main Center’s businesses.

In the mean time, over the next 18 months, events and operations can continue as before.

Is this the best outcome? Ideally, many of us feel the answer is no; but realistically, the two owners wanted to sell, the stakeholders of the Co-op, CMC and others could not make the financial arrangements needed to bring forward a counter offer as leaseholders. The idea of mounting a huge capital campaign in a very limited time frame proved simply unfeasible.

This is certainly not the worst fate for the property. The fire station has been a member of the community there for over 50 years, and they intend to build their building with the highest green LEED status as feasible. In a nod to our efforts revitalizing the area, the City has agreed to allow us to stay on the property until construction begins, as well as allowing us direct input into the site planning of the Fire Station and guarantee that it would fit into the urban fabric in a way that did not damage the gains in walkability and public use we have made there to date.

So we stakeholders will move forward. With Wild Iris now open, the next piece to be brought up to speed will be further improvements to the courtyard area and renovations to the metal building east of the Co-op back room, now currently used as a combination workshop and storage by building by owner Chris Fillie. Agreement has been reached through a creative arrangement between the City and Mr. Fillie, also a LEED-certified contractor, to salvage as much as possible from the Church of Holy Colors and Repurpose Project buildings to help the city with their green building goals. Look for a very eventful year as we wind down our stewardship of the property. We will count on community support as we move into the next phase of the evolution of South Main Street.

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