Mika Sheerin remembers feeling starstruck her first time at The Jam.
It was a Friday night two years ago, sometime in February, she said. The student-run record label Swamp Records, which she is now president of, held its annual festival at the once-iconic music venue.
It was where she made her first impression of the label. It was where she first forged a real bond with the local music scene in Gainesville.
“It holds a special place in my heart,” the 21-year-old UF advertising senior said. “After that one night I thought, ‘Why can’t this be every Friday night?’”
Now, tattered walls, debris and bulldozing equipment litter the space where Sheerin made memories.
“It’s a sad day,” she said.
For the past week, the mini strip mall where The Jam and other storefronts once stood between Midtown and downtown Gainesville, located at 817 W. University Ave., has been gradually demolished, said Eddy Arenas, a former The Jam co-founder and co-owner.
“It’s disheartening because it feels like they’re getting rid of the old part of Gainesville,” Arenas said.
The construction project on the block is known as Inception, said City of Gainesville spokesperson Chip Skinner. It is being developed by local construction firm EDA Inc. and was approved by the City Plan Board late last year.
Arenas said the development is part of UF’s Innovation Hub expansion project. He said when he and his friend, and then bandmate, Blake Briand started The Jam in September 2012, they did it for the music.
Arenas said what started off as a weekly Wednesday open jam session where his sister ran her old businesses evolved into the spot where Arenas and Briand would host some of the best shows and parties he can remember.
Despite the disappointment, Arenas said he’s optimistic. Within the span of about a year, he said three great venues have opened up: Depot Park, Pop-A-Top cafe and Heartwood Soundstage.
“The Jam opened up the way for these other venues to come through,” he said, “much like other venues paved the way for The Jam.”
Sheerin said there’s a special quality to The Jam that can’t be replicated, which Gainesville is now missing. She said the other venues in town are amazing in their own right, but it’ll take time for them to capture the same “homey” feel. She said The Jam was laid back, welcoming and genuine.
“The great thing about The Jam was that it was the place to try new things, it was a really good place for people just starting out,” she said.