A $2 million complex is being built in East Gainesville as part of an initiative to redevelop the area.

The building will house Mérieux NutriSciences, a food-testing company. Construction for the 22,700-square-foot facility by 2153 SE Hawthorne Road started Jan. 22, said Tricia Lopez, a Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency project manager. The company hopes to bring in about 30 new jobs and strengthen the industry’s relationship with UF.

The construction, which is set to last between six to eight months, is a part of a plan to develop 13 acres along Southeast Hawthorne Road in East Gainesville.

The facility is being built in a cornerstone, which is a mixed-use complex with space for up to 10 new buildings. The Community Redevelopment Agency has been redeveloping the plaza as part of its Gainesville East initiative, Lopez said. The plan is to have a mix of businesses that complement each other, which could be anything from office spaces to restaurants, she said.

The agency wants to attract new residents, businesses and investments to the east side, while “preserving what makes it unique,” said Stephanie Seawright, a Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency project manager.

Lopez said the Gainesville East initiative will add jobs and amenities to an area that has not seen the same growth other areas of Gainesville have. Lopez said there’s no definitive reason why East Gainesville’s growth has lagged behind, but said negative perceptions of about lack of income, crime and inadequate schools have “vilified” developing on the East Side.

“It’s a positive step for growth on the east side of Gainesville,” said Brian Crawford, the president of Concept Companies, which owns the NutriSciences building.

Mérieux NutriSciences, a food testing company, is headquartered in Chicago but is currently located in 22 countries. The company promotes public health through analysis, consulting, auditing, training, contract research and sensory analysis services in the food industry, said Lindsey Roberts, marketing manager at Concept Companies.

Susan Davenport, the president and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, said Mérieux NutriSciences will benefit from the talent, research and innovation that comes out of UF.

"The selection of East Gainesville's cornerstone site for Mérieux NutriSciences' newest lab will not only bring new jobs to the area, but it will also strengthen the industry's relationship with the University of Florida and our regional business community,” Davenport said.

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