A new Gainesville park just got one step closer to completion.
At an event Wednesday morning, officials broke the ground for the development of Depot Park, a new 32-acre park in the 200th block of Southeast Depot Avenue. The park, which will cost about $6 million to build, is expected to open in Fall 2016.
"It’s exciting to see it emerge out of the ground," said Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy.
Braddy was one of several speakers who attended the event, in addition to about 250 guests. There were also local vendors and musical performances.
By the time he spoke toward the end, all of the details had been covered, Braddy said, but he wanted to be a part of it. The creation of the park was a massive project, he said.
Once completed, Depot Park will be the largest in Gainesville, featuring a 24-foot-wide promenade that wraps around the north side of the pond, which will be used for food truck rallies and art festivals. There will also be a large green space, children’s play area, a splash pad that shoots water out of the ground and a picnic pavilion, said Cindi Harvey, project manager for the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency.
"We’re excited," she said. "It’s going to be a great amenity for the public."
"We want to build a great park, and we want it to last for a really long time."
The master plan for the park’s design was approved in 2010 after the city bought the land — which had soil contaminated with tar — in the 1990s.
The park pays homage to its historic roots with the roughly $2 million restoration of a train depot, which houses the park’s indoor facilities and was finished before Wednesday’s ceremony. The train car, Harvey said, dates back to the 1800s and was the first phase of the park’s development.
The second phase began Wednesday with the ceremonial ground breaking.
"It’s all part of the revitalization of downtown," Harvey said.
Robyn Toigo, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom, said she thinks the refurbished Depot Park will be a great place for families to go.
She said her 3-year-old son will enjoy running around on the playground equipment.
"He enjoys exploring and going new places," she said.
Toigo said the important thing for her is spending time with her son, and Gainesville’s parks are a great place to do that.
"I couldn’t imagine missing all the time I get to spend with him," she said.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect corrections. The city of Gainesville did not purchase the land for Depot Park from Gainesville Regional Utilities. We initially reported otherwise. Also, when the city purchased the land, the land's soil was contaminated with tar. Our original version of the story was unclear. Finally, Depot Park is going to be 32 acres. We initially reported otherwise.