Wasteland Turned Wonderland: Depot Park Breaks Ground
Two hundred and fifty five thousand tons of contaminated soil used to rest where Ed Bielarski, GRU’s new general manager, stood this morning at the Depot Park groundbreaking ceremony.
That is the equivalent of 51,000 elephants.
If the fact that this much waste covered 32 acres of local land doesn’t blow your mind, maybe the fact that the city of Gainesville removed the waste to make a community park will.
After 19 years of planning by numerous members of the community, Depot Park is now kicking off its construction phase to make a dream a reality.
Depot Park, which will be located on 201 SE Depot Ave., will open in Fall 2016 with the hope of becoming one of Gainesville’s new landmarks.
The park will include a football-field sized children’s play area, a water’s edge promenade designed to host food truck rallies, art galleries, festivals, outdoor grills, picnic pavilions, dramatic entry features, nature trails and more.
Back in the 1860’s, the park was a train station that served as Gainesville’s main railroad hub for 60 years — the park even kept some of the old tracks running through parts of the park. This hub was a key to the economic development of Gainesville during those 60 years helping to fuel our agricultural industry, phosphate mining industry and our tourism industry.
After the railroad hub became of little use to the city, the park’s site was faced with a much more inferior purpose.
Due to its close proximity to small gas stations and the Gainesville’s Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP), the old railroad hub was used as a dumping ground for all the waste that the gas companies produced.
With teamwork and open minds, the city of Gainesville decided to construct a new goal for the train depot: a better quality of life for the citizens of Gainesville. With the incredible history behind this park and the work and effort set forth by the community, there is little doubt that this location will quickly become one of Gainesville’s newest tourist attractions.
Partners from GRU, Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (GCRA), Downtown Advisory Board, the mayor, City Public Works Department, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Alachua County Commission all came together – despite political differences — to help clean up the site and give it life once more.
“This is a great opportunity for our community,” said Charles “Chuck” Chestnut IV, Chair of Alachua County Commission. “To create a park where all citizens of Alachua County can come and enjoy and understand that this used to be a brown field and now it’s a wonderful park for our citizens to enjoy.”
Major Ed Braddy best described the park as an obscure scar that will now become beautiful city landmark.
With 19 years of preparation, there is no doubt that this scar has healed.
The construction phase of the park alone will create 115 jobs for Gainesville citizens.
The park will not only benefit Gainesville citizens, it will also benefit the community around it.
The Cade Museum, which will be built on the west side of Depot Park, expects to attract around 350 visitors per day for the first 4 years. (That’s half a million visitors in 4 years!)
By the tenth year of operation in 2027, there are hopes to see the total gross visitor spending impact to incline to 6.5 million in ripple benefits for hotels, restaurants, retailers and more.
Economic reasons aside, Nathalie McCrate, project manager for GCRA, has one hope in mind for the future of Depot Park:
“I just want to see this place light up.”
Featured photo courtesy of: Michaela Beeda