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Saturday, January 22, 2022

When the Main Street fire station expands one block south, it will crowd out some members of the growing art community who currently rent buildings on the land, but some artists are remaining optimistic.

The City Commission voted to approve the fire station’s move from 427 S. Main St. in August, citing outdated and deteriorating facilities.

The fire station construction will affect The Church of Holy Colors, The Repurpose Project, Gainesville Compost and Everyman Sound, among others.

Building plans for the relocated station are pending results from environmental tests of the land.

After almost a year of negotiations, the city agreed to grant use of the land to current tenants until December 2014.

So for the time being, creative operations on South Main Street are projected to continue as usual.

Inside the painted wooden walls of The Church of Holy Colors, two artists with studio space in the building described the year ahead.

Tristan Whitehill, a musician who has called the space home for about three years, said that The Church of Holy Colors will use its time left to focus more on visual art.

“It sucks that this will kind of be an end to an era,” he said. “But at least with this, there’s a sense of closure.”

Over the hum of an old overhead projector, visual artist Benji Haselhurst said, “This isn’t going to shut anything down. It’s just a stumbling block.”

Sarah Goff, co-founder of The Repurpose Project, said she’s keeping a positive perspective.

“Sometimes something seems like a bad thing but can lead to something better, and that’s just how I look at it,” she said.

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Christopher Fillie, who rented and subleased part of the affected land, said The Repurpose Project began outgrowing the space within the first year and expected a scheduled raise in rent on Jan. 1.

Fillie said he views the city allowing the artists to stay until 2014 as “a nod to our efforts for revitalizing the area.”

He said that current tenants should no longer see a rise in rent or be forced out early for expired leases.

With the extra time, Fillie said he plans on continuing to build Vibrant Community Development Inc., a nonprofit aimed at helping small businesses and artists stay afloat.

“I’m trying to create an engine to leverage the forced appreciation of property that comes with the creative class,” he said.

In the negotiations, the city also agreed to provide public parking for the affected establishments.

For now, Haselhurst said, the group of artists is just curious about what the future holds for them and their businesses.

“I’m very confident it will find us all working and playing in very close proximity to one another,” he said. “We inspire each other, and I think it’s just obvious that we stick together.”

A version of this story ran on page 5 on 9/9/2013 under the headline "Downtown fire station to affect artists"

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