After almost a year and a half of construction, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency’s More in Midtown project is finally nearing the finish line.
The CRA broke ground in January 2017 with the goal of transforming Northwest First Avenue into a safe, more environmentally friendly area for the hundreds of students and more than 15 businesses that call the area home.
After breaking ground on Jan. 6, 2017, the project had set a completion date of September 2017. However, some unforeseen delays, one of which being Hurricane Irma, pushed the date of completion back significantly.
One part of the project called for the removal of existing asphalt on roads between the 1600 and 1900 blocks of Northwest First Avenue to allow for overhead utilities to be placed underground.
Asphalt removal began on Jan. 23, 2017 and roads were unpaved for seven months.
Gravel roads were reopened shortly after the asphalt was removed for cars and pedestrians to traverse. However, according to business owners in the area, sales still took a profound hit.
Small businesses operating in Roberts’ Stadium Club, a commercial and residential office building located at 1800 W. University Ave., especially felt the effects of the reduced foot traffic, according to business owners operating in the building.
One of those small businesses was Re-Bike, a new and used bike shop located on the first floor of Roberts’ Stadium Club. Eric Ford opened Re-Bike in April 2016 to offer affordable bikes and quality service to students and faculty at the University of Florida.
Business for Ford was great in the first nine months but took a major hit once the roads were removed for the utilities to be placed underground.
“Everything was going a lot better than expected during the first few months,” Ford said. “But sales dropped about 50 percent after they dug everything up.”
Everything Mac, a licensed Apple repair store also located on the first floor of Roberts’ Stadium Club, reported a similar drop in sales around a 50 percent from the previous summer before construction started, according to Co-Owner Raemi Eagle-Glenn.
However, unlike other businesses in their area, they were able to stay afloat because of the business that Apple would send them.
Despite the decrease in business, Eagle-Glenn is optimistic about the project and future of the area.
“I’m pro-growth,” Eagle-Glenn said. “Opening up this area for people and bringing in more parking is going to be a good thing.”
After conducting surveys and holding open meetings for public discussion, the CRA generated a list of needs for the project and eventually allocated a $3.5 million budget.
According to the More in Midtown website, the list of needs includes more meters and accessible parking for motorists, more trash and recycling bins, along with more trees in an effort to make the area “more green”.
There are also plans to make the area safer area for pedestrians by adding 2,000 feet of continuous, linear sidewalk illuminated by LED lighting alongside the street.
According to Project Manager Tricia Lopez, all of the old utility poles are expected to be removed by April 1, with April 10 being the expected date of completion of the project.
“We are really looking forward to the completion of this project,” Lopez said. “It is going to bring a new life to the Midtown area for students and businesses to enjoy.”