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Friday, September 24, 2021

Six months after the 13th Street Walmart relocated, officials and developers say the future of the building in the 17-acre shopping complex is unclear.

In January, Walmart vacated the building at 2649 NW 13th St., and later moved to 5700 NW 23rd St.

Adam Basch, the head of investor relations for Kite Realty Group, which owns the property, said he couldn’t disclose information about the future of the building yet.

“I can tell you that we’re working on it, and there is a plan,” Basch said. “It’s clearly an important thing we are focused on, but timing is fluid at this point.”

The vacant building, once an anchor store for the shopping center, has left surrounding businesses aching for the days when customers — attracted by Walmart — were easier to come by.

Shannon Coleman, store manager of the retail shop Simply Fashion, said although her store still accommodates a base of loyal customers, it’s seen a significant decrease in customers since Walmart closed.

“Traffic is low, and it sucks,” she said. Jennifer Hutchinson, co-manager of Simply Fashion, agreed.

“It’s like a ghost town,” she said.

Cassie Vientos, a supervisor at Beall’s Outlet, said the store has experienced a 15 percent decrease in sales.

“Everyone forgets we are over here now,” she said.

Commissioner Thomas Hawkins said an idea for the area is to rezone the location to make a potential redevelopment process easier and better. However, he said, plans for the lot are still undecided.

Erik Bredfeldt, the economic development director for the City of Gainesville, said although the city currently has no plans for the property, it’s important to consider options to help the businesses.

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“It’s something we’re interested in seeing move forward,” he said. “We aren’t quite sure what that looks like. But to the extent that the city can help facilitate ... or work through some of those issues — that’s what’s important to us.”

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