Turn off of University Avenue in Gainesville, travel a block down SW 8th Street, and turn right onto First Avenue.
You might miss a two-story house on the right that has been standing nearly a century.
Built in 1925, the five-bedroom family home stands quietly behind a loud forest of bushes and trees that have invaded the front yard. One tree, stretching nearly the length of the house, lies across the yard, blocking the front door entrance to what is now a dilapidated dwelling.
The City Plan Board met Thursday evening to finalize plans for demolishing the house and the rest of its block, including The Jam (a music venue), two tattoo parlors and a martial arts gym called Unified Fighting Center.
Hannah Brown, a doctoral student studying ecology at the University of Florida, said she lived in the carriage house behind that big white house for eight months in 2014 after working at The Jam.
“You could tell that someone had gardened it at one time,” Brown said. “There were all these beautiful azaleas planted. It was all overgrown, but you could still see that someone had put rocks in and made little pathways. It was pretty cool.”
Brown lived there until the pipes burst. The owners gave her a month to find another apartment. She said the house was condemned at the time she lived there.
Brown said the house is not protected as a historic building, even though it was built at the same time as other buildings nearby that are considered historic. It is a charming house, she said.
“They had a board at the top of the wall to hang pictures from and a cool doorbell,” Brown said. “It had wooden floors. It was all just vintage.”
Blake Briand, who rents the property next door and manages The Jam, said he remembers seeing a tombstone in the home’s backyard — plus some of the house’s impressive aspects — when he last looked a couple of years ago.
“When I was in there it was nice. It had a great interior, hardwood floors and great interior work. Cosmetically, it wasn’t that far from being in really good shape,” he said. “The apartments looked beautiful inside too.”
Briand doesn’t want to see the buildings torn down. He likes operating his business, and he said he wants the historic aspects of the block to be preserved.
“If it was up to me, and I had the funds, I would buy this entire block and preserve it,” Briand said. “It’s historical. The Unified Training Center is really old. It used to be a bowling alley. This stuff is significant and iconic to the Gainesville culture.”
Briand said he has spoken with customers who feel the same way. Regulars become a part of daily life for local businesses, and Briand said major changes and moving could shatter the businesses there that can’t afford to move elsewhere in the city.
“A lot of people are upset the block is being demolished and the current businesses are being evicted without anywhere to go,” Briand said. “It’s pretty much a death sentence for us.”
Innovation Square LLC — part of the University of Florida — owns the property and plans to turn it into apartments for employees.
“The projects will provide 110 apartments, which will give much more dense use for that site, which is one of the goals that the city is trying to create in this area… a more high density environment,” said Lee Nelson, UF’s director of real estate. “That’s certainly going to be a much better use of that site than a vacant house.”
Nelson said the new building has been planned for about five years.
“The master plan called for replacement for all the buildings on that parcel,” Nelson said, “and this is just an execution of that plan.”