Yes, it’s a big deal

So they are building a new hotel in Gainesville. What’s the big deal?

Well, let us count the ways.

It’s a big deal because it will be Gainesville’s first Hyatt Place, which sort of makes it a Lexus in a town used to driving a Ford.

It’s a nearly $35 million project, which is a really big deal when you consider that the whole thing was negotiated during a year when Covid had all but destroyed the hospitality, travel and event industries … not to mention the economy in general.

It has broken ground at a time when nobody really knows when, or even if, things will get back to “normal” in this university city. When will The Swamp fill up again and create the demand for more hotel beds? Who knows?

And it’s a big deal because it isn’t being built out by the Interstate. Alachua County may have decided that putting its sports arena in the land of chain restaurants, big boxes and fast driving is a big deal. But theses investors are more savvy and, ironically, possess a clearer vision when it comes to identifying Gainesville’s unique “sense of place.”

But mostly it’s a big deal because this hotel is being built in the heart of downtown Gainesville.

These private investors are focused eastward when the “smart money”keeps sprawling further and further west.

And make no mistake. This new Hyatt Place is the largest single private sector investment in downtown Gainesville since…well, since forever.

“Better times are coming,” Florida Sec. Of Commerce Jamal Sowell promised during Friday’s ground breaking ceremony.

“We persevered,” Mike Warren, president of Gainesville-based AMJ, said in reference to the hurdles he and his fellow investors had to clear to bring this project downtown.

“This is going to be a game-changer,” Connor Weilgus, Hyatts regional Vice President, promised.

And we hope he is right. Because in recent years downtown’s fortunes have seemed more precarious than prosperous.

So they are building a new hotel in Gainesville. So what?

It isn’t a really big deal unless it is.

Unless it is that transformative project that can help change the destiny of the very heart of Gainesville…its once and future downtown.

Now that would be a big deal.

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