St. Michael’s Church Site Development Planned in Suburban Heights

A new development is coming to a neighborhood in northwest Gainesville despite years of controversy between residents, the developer and the city.

Colliers International realtors are now leasing mixed-use space for a planned development at the corner of 23rd Avenue Northwest and 43rd Street, on what was once the property of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.

The plan has been hotly debated for at least the past four years, as residents complained it would bring more noise and traffic to the Suburban Heights neighborhood – an already densely populated part of the city.

Some city officials have expressed disapproval of the planned development, preferring that the land be used for more affordable housing.

“It’s really unfortunate because we could have had a much better project that had workforce housing,” Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said. “Instead, it looks like they’re going to cut down all the trees and we’re going to have buildings surrounded by parking lots on all four sides.”

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Although the zoning of the property would allow the developer to include up to 69 full-fledged residential units, it is not clear at this stage if he plans to do so.

Real estate agents Jason Hurst and Bennett Harrell of Colliers recently started advertising the development on social media. When asked if the property would include housing, they posed the question to Kevin Frazier, who represents the developer, Wilson Development Group, who did not respond to questions for comment.

St. Michael’s Church once occupied the land but was hastily demolished in December 2018, just a week before it was considered for a historic preservation site.

The Episcopal Diocese of Florida had St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Gainesville demolished in 2019, ahead of a meeting that would have designated the site a local historic landmark.  The city's preservation board censored the church and its promoters by circumventing its process. [Andrew Caplan/Staff Photo]

CHW Professional Consultants requested a proposal for the land which would change its zoning from office and commercial to mixed use. This proposal was ultimately rejected after local residents turned out in droves to express their opposition to the project which initially called for a Starbucks, a fast food restaurant and a drive-thru bank. At one point, an option was also considered for a neighborhood park.

Since then, the project’s fate remained largely in limbo until last February, when the Gainesville City Commission hosted a virtual workshop on the property’s proposed rezoning. Unable to resolve an impasse on the matter from a meeting on November 3, 2021, the zoning of the land remained as is.

Today, despite opposition from residents and some city officials, the Millhopper development offers mixed-use commercial space between 4,000 and 10,000 square feet, with Cox Media Group already on board as a tenant.

A plan posted on the HurstHarrellTeam Facebook page shows the space will include room for 4,400 to 10,000 square feet of available space which could include childcare facilities, medical uses, banking, personal care, offices and veterinary care.

Suburban Heights neighbors have long said the area already offers a plethora of options for banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, pet care and other amenities along the busy 23rd Avenue intersection. northwest and 43rd street.

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