The Swamp restaurant, home to Saturday tailgates and the Freshman 15 burger, will be returning to Gainesville in a new location in August 2022.
The restaurant, previously located at 1642 W. University Ave. in Midtown, will be moved to 1026 SW Second Ave. in the Gainesville Innovation District, two blocks from UF’s campus. Construction will begin in the summer of 2021 and is expected to take 12 to 14 months, wrote Trimark Properties developer John Fleming in an email.
The cost to rebuild The Swamp is unknown, Fleming wrote.
After standing in Midtown for more than 25 years, the landlord decided to sell the property to the 908 group, a Tampa based developer that formerly owned Gainesville apartment complex The Nine. The developer announced it would be purchasing the land in April 2019.
This fall, the local real estate developer Trimark Properties teamed up with The Swamp to recreate the charm synonymous with the two-story landmark, a mile from its original location.
The building’s two-story structure, white-trimmed walls and picket fence will return to Gainesville sandwiched between the UF campus and downtown. Trimark Properties plans to recreate the front lawn, the second-story event space along with adding the memorabilia that buried the walls.
The Swamp owner Ryan Prodesky said he kept the original signed jerseys, UF Dazzler posters and holiday staff photos to decorate the inside. The new building will have a larger front lawn and may include an outdoor bar but is still in the planning stages.
“We're gonna be able to recreate the magic that was The Swamp,” he said.
More than 100 crew members and architects along with 20 trade companies, which sell products to companies or consumers, will be working at the site and are expected to adhere to CDC guidelines.
Trimark Properties also plans to create a custom building with a new, larger kitchen and bathrooms. With the building growing older, Prodesky said it was nice to start from scratch and improve the facilities.
“The opportunity to rebuild The Swamp was too good to turn down,” he said.
The initial decisions to tear down The Swamp angered and baffled thousands of UF alumni, students and faculty who have created memories, fostered friendships and met lifetime partners while munching at The Swamp.
A petition to save The Swamp circulated in 2019 when word of The Swamp closure began and accumulated more than 34,000 signatures. One signee compared it to replacing Century Tower, the 11-story UF landmark, with a Starbucks.
“It was just a natural gathering place for Gator nation,” Prodesky said.
Anthony Sabatini, Florida Rep. of Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, and UF doctoral Class of 2017 alumnus, filed a bill to keep The Swamp as a historic landmark. If it was destroyed, the city or county would be charged $10 million. The UF Student Government proposed a student bill calling the restaurant a “hub of culture and camaraderie” for the UF community. Both efforts were either substituted with another bill or not considered.
Ultimately the restaurant, originally constructed in 1914 as a professor’s home, was torn down in July.
Prodesky, The Swamp owner and UF Class of 2006 alumnus, said one of his first memories at The Swamp was sitting at a table with Tim Tebow. Ron DeFilippo founded The Swamp in 1994 and co-owned it with Prodesky for the past five years, until leaving the company and pursuing other projects, Prodesky said.
UF alumni ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews, and KISS band member Gene Simmons, are among the list of personalities and celebrities who have visited The Swamp.
“It's a place that I've met all kinds of different people, and I look forward to continuing that tradition,” Prodesky said.
The restaurant originally planned to return to its old space, but at the bottom floor of a luxury apartment complex. The restaurant would resemble a national chain, and Prodesky feared it would strip away the authentic atmosphere of The Swamp.
“There's no animosity or any hard feelings,” Prodesky said. “They were doing what's right for their business.”
The Swamp was a Gainesville icon that had to be preserved, said John Fleming, a Trimark Properties developer.
“I saw a lot of things in the papers lately about old Gainesville going away, and I thought it was a great opportunity,” Fleming said.
He loved eating at The Swamp, he said, and he’s thankful to help bring back the diner that so many memorialize.
The Innovation District, The Swamp’s new home, includes more than 80 companies from start-ups to coffee shops. The Swamp will be walking distance from downtown, Sorority Row and student housing.
Trimark Properties has restored more than 60 historical homes and 20 commercial spaces, he said. The Swamp will be Trimark’s first restaurant renovation.
“To redo them and see them back in their glory for another 100 years is quite rewarding,” he said.