The Gainesville City Commission has canceled its plans to put a Bravo Supermarket on the empty lot on Hawthorne Road, leaving many East Gainesville residents grounded in a food desert.
The city commission general meeting Thursday discussed the future of the development plans for a Bravo franchise, a Hispanic-centered supermarket chain that was first approved in June 2021.
The city approved a $3.3 million loan to open a supermarket in the empty lot on Hawthorne Road.
East Gainesville residents expressed their disapproval with Bravo’s planned location because there was little community involvement in choosing the supermarket.
Real estate developer Frederic Washington was the first person to convince Bravo to come onboard. At the city commission meeting, Washington said the negative reaction from community members was part of the reason why Bravo was no longer willing to come to East Gainesville.
“I was frankly embarrassed,” Washington said. “You would have thought that we were trying to bring weapons grade uranium over to East Gainesville the way that we were treated.”
The city commission looked at a checklist for due diligence within the development process. Developers did not submit many of the required documents.
Gainesville interim city manager Cynthia Curry said she received an email from one of the development project partners that they wanted to drop out because the site was expensive.
The City of Gainesville staff recommended the commission not to move forward with the current development plan.
The city commission decided the best course of action would be to accept the staff’s recommendation and voted to stop the development of the Bravo.
Commissioner Reina Saco expressed her disappointment that this project would be coming to a halt.
“I understand that we are stewards of the public’s money…we need something more than half-baked,” Saco said. “I think our option now is to reopen that process.”
Saco said that the city will reopen the request for proposal from businesses about what to do with the empty lot on Hawthorne Road and re-start the process of developing a supermarket.
Commissioner David Arreola mentioned in the meeting that money will still be set aside for a grocery project.
“I think we as a commission have to take responsibility for how we got here,” he said.
The commission will have a more detailed discussion on how to move forward with this project at a later date, Arreola said.
Some East Gainesville residents like Tina Days, a 43-year-old food delivery driver, said they opposed the Bravo construction as the city commission chose it without their input.
“On the one hand I’m glad because I just felt like [Bravo] wasn’t a good fit. On another hand, I am furious,” Days said after the project was halted. “On the West side, probably on every block there’s a supermarket. But you can’t attract not one supermarket for the East side?”
Days said it was common for supermarkets to leave quickly after occupying the available lot.
“We go there one week and the next week they’re closed with no information,” she said. “No reason given.”
Residents of East Gainesville must now continue to wait in a food desert for the foreseeable future — or at least until a new supermarket agrees to develop there.
Contact Erina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ErinaAnwar_.
Erina is a second-year journalism student and reports on East Gainesville for The Alligator. Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Erina grew up in Fort Lauderdale and is excited to discover new stories in Gainesville. When she’s not writing, she enjoys exploring local restaurants and watching Korean dramas.