The future of Gainesville’s retail landscape is one step closer to completion.
Butler Enterprises broke ground on Butler North early Friday morning — a project that expects to bring more than 1,500 construction jobs to the city.
The $186-million shopping complex expansion will also create more than 3,500 retail jobs once its sites are open, wrote Kristin Mamula, a Butler Enterprises spokeswoman, in an email.
The sites are expected to have a direct economic impact of $300 million annually.
“That helps us retain people in the region,” said Susan Davenport, vice president of economic development for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is something that everyone that visits Gainesville would like to see here.”
Butler Enterprises hired Gainesville-based O’Steen Brothers to clear the land and do the expansion’s earthwork, according to a press release. Ocala-based Hamlet Construction did the underground construction, including sewage and storm water drainage.
Most of what will be Butler North has been cleared for construction, but Mamula said both Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club sites have not yet been cleared.
Davenport said the projects, along with multi-use project Celebration Pointe — slated for a fall 2016 opening –— contribute to the chamber’s five-year economic development strategy to improve Gainesville’s business culture.
She said the new opportunities for employment and investment will make people “want to live here and make this a higher quality of life for people that live here.”
About 300 people attended the shopping complex’s expansion celebration Friday, hosted in an open field overlooking the Butler North site. When complete, Southwest 24th Avenue will border the property to the north, while 34th Street will border the east, Interstate Highway 75 to the west and Archer Road to the south.
As Butler North nears completion, construction on an open-air shopping center called Butler Town Center will begin. Combined with Butler North, the center will add more than 1 million square feet of retail and commercial space to the existing plaza, Mamula said.
Construction on the complex is slated to begin in March and be completed by 2016.
“It is really something that will add such a beautiful dimension to Gainesville’s growing economy,” Davenport said. “We could not be happier. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 11/24/2014]