A former hotel, once a sanctuary for travelers, may soon be a safe haven for people seeking treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

UF&Shands plans to turn a vacant Residence Inn, located at 4001 SW 13th St. near Williston Road, into a drug and alcohol abuse treatment center. It is expected to attract patients from across the nation and bring more jobs to the county.

The project will cost UF&Shands between $3 million and $4 million, which includes the purchase of the building and renovations.

If the Alachua County Commission allows for the rezoning of the property, UF&Shands will turn the building into a long-term living treatment center that will house up to 120 people.

If the county rezones the property for medical facilities within the next month, the center will open on July 1.

A public hearing during a meeting of the Alachua County Planning Commission about the rezoning will be held at 6 p.m. today in Room 209 of the Alachua County Administration Building.

UF officials said the new center is expected to be similar to the world-renowned Betty Ford Treatment Center in California, which has been home to drug- and alcohol-addicted celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Johnny Cash.

The new facility will create up to 18 jobs.

The center will be an extension of services provided by the UF&Shands Florida Recovery Center on Northwest 39th Avenue. Some doctors from the center will move their offices to the new 13th Street location to treat patients there, said Scott Teitelbaum, medical director of the center.

Its drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs already have a reputation for attracting patients from around the nation, many of whom are health professionals seeking substance abuse treatment, Teitelbaum said. In the 39th Avenue location, patients are treated at the site but live in apartments throughout the community.

Teitelbaum said that can make the recovery process more difficult.

“When patients live in the community, they are faced with distractions,” he said. “This will provide them with a recovery campus and a much nicer experience.”

The buildings, which will look more like a cluster of brick cottages than a hotel, will house apartments for those trying to recover from drug abuse, alcohol abuse and eating disorders. It will also include offices for therapists, addiction psychiatrists and addiction medicine physicians.

The former hotel sits one block from Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Inc., a clinic that also offers treatment for substance abuse.

In December, Meridian purchased the vacant Gator Lodge, located next door, to open a residential rehabilitation facility.

“It seems like they are trying to make this a treatment area,” said Roy Alford Jr., owner of nearby Hair Wonders Cutting Edge Barbershop.

His business is across the street from both establishments on the corner of Southwest 13th Street and Williston Road.

Though it recognizes the proximity of the two facilities, it was not the county’s decision to put these facilities in the same area, said Jerry Brewington, senior planner at the Alachua County Growth Management Department.

“They needed a residential accommodation, so what better place for them to accommodate their patients than a nearby hotel or motel?” Brewington said.

Commercial real estate agent Erig Ligman said the purchase of the site by a notable health center like UF&Shands will help develop an area that is known for being rundown.

Within a half-mile radius of the former Residence Inn are seven “For Lease” and “For Sale” signs in the windows of bare spaces and on grassy tracts of land.

“Hopefully this will bring us business,” said barbershop owner Alford. “We need it. This area needs it.”

Contact Adrianna Paidas at [email protected].