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Gainesville makes new plans for homeless center

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Gainesville City commissioners are eyeing the site of the former Gainesville Correctional Institute for a new center for the homeless.

The Gainesville City Commission now has the state’s permission to buy the abandoned Gainesville Correctional Institute property on Northeast 39th Avenue, where creation of a homeless center is being planned.

Current plans for a center off Northwest 53rd Avenue have been stalled by legal challenges and construction delays.

The commission decided to continue those efforts while also looking into this site, which city commissioner Todd Chase said will provide the homeless with opportunities to improve their situation.

In preparation, City Manager Rus Blackburn had the property appraised, Chase said.

“By doing that, what we said was basically that we are interested in acquiring that property and using it as both the one-stop homeless center location as well as potentially a myriad of services and activities that we will be working with the community to define,” Chase said.

But the deal isn’t near finalized.

The Florida Forestry Service and the Florida National Guard have also expressed interest in the property.

If the city can acquire the property, Chase said plans for the site would require little government oversight.

“I think the property – if we’re able to get this thing – provides an opportunity really for the private sector and the nonprofit sector and the volunteers to work together and kind of remove government from really having to manage and operate too much,” he said “I think it gives us a place to build a really special facility.”

The proposed facility would include a shelter, soup kitchen, job training site and other social services. Much of the site’s existing infrastructure could easily be used for those venues, Chase said.

Details of the plan, like the property appraisal and negotiations with the state, will be finalized at a later date.

Kelly Price edited this story online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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