To reach across cultural barriers in businesses, a proposed seven-floor international center may be built across the street from UF.
The International Council of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce is considering building the center on the corner of Southwest 13th Street and West University Avenue, where Leonardo's Pizza and the Circle K gas station are located, said Steve Kalishman with the Sister City Program of Gainesville, Inc. The council will research the city’s needs for the center over the next eight months.
No concrete plans have been determined for that space yet, and it remains unclear when they will decide what to do with it, said UF spokesperson Margot Winick.
“The university is still considering all possible options for that space,” Winick said.
Kalishman said the cost for the center is expected to be between $16 million and $30 million, but it could bring billions of dollars in economic growth to Gainesville.
“I don’t know how you put a number on the potential,” he said. “It could change everything about the city of Gainesville in a few years.”
It will offer executive training in cultures so businesses can work internationally. The center’s plan includes a museum, international restaurant, hotel, event space, parking garage, office space for businesses and more.
“We would have a place to showcase all of Gainesville’s global connections,” Kalishman said. “We have to have a facility to show foreign visitors that Gainesville is serious about global connections.”
Kalishman said now is the best opportunity to build the center.
“There’s plenty of cities that could do the same thing, but we don’t want to wait until everyone else does it and be the last one on board,” Kalishman said.
The thousands of international students at UF and Santa Fe College present an opportunity to connect the city to the rest of the world, said Susan Davenport, the president and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“The greater Gainesville region is a global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity,” Davenport said.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the proposed building would be seven floors, not five.