The Gears Grind On – South Main Community Update

by Christopher Fillie

We are now almost into June, and the deal for the South Main Arts community to vacate its long-term lease on the .85-acre parcel between SE 5th and SE 6th avenues (as well as negotiations on the parcel immediately to the East owned and occupied by Everyman Sound) is still making its way through the gears of the City. The deal was proposed to make way for the City Of Gainesville Fire Department’s Fire Station Number One to move and expand.

The land is currently occupied by the Repurpose Project, the Church of Holy Colors, Vibrant Community Development, Gainesville Compost, and parking for the Citizens Co-Op, the Civic Media Center, Display Gallery, the Sequential Artists Workshop, The Green Building Cooperative, Ricardo Cavallino and Associates Architecture, and (soon) Wild Iris Books. While we have agreed and understood that it is necessary to build a fire station that will be able to handle the growth forecasted in the central city through such projects as Innovation Square and the proposed Cade Museum, we are proceeding with caution and staying firm to our demands to mitigate the impacts to the needs and goals for the community we have grown into. We are being asked to give up a generous longterm lease and an agreement to purchase the property, for the betterment of the city. To date, the City has made good faith efforts to plan to provide on-street public parking to the area and to agree to community input for an urban design that will not discourage pedestrian traffic and social vibrancy through the arts and cultural corridor we have envisioned from downtown to Depot Park.

We hope that they can agree to hold up their end of the bargain, and end this period of uncertainty. We have been informed that sellers with comparable offers have approached the city. Issues of environmental contamination, if they should be found, and funding approvals from the City Commission could all make another property more suited. To prepare for this, we have negotiated a back-up contract with the owner and are securing commitments from the local community for investment capital.

Who knows what the future will bring? In every crisis, lies opportunity.

One clarification must be made here: the 514 S. Main St. “South Main Community Arts and Culture Center,” housing the CMC, Co-Op etc., is in no way at risk of sale, eminent domain, or any other such change. It is only the expansion of our community to the South, and those businesses located and that had planned on locating here, who may be impacted if the deal goes through.

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