By Anthony Clark | The Gainesville Sun
In his previous job, Ed Poppell developed the University of Florida East Campus on Waldo Road, leading President Bernie Machen to refer to it as the “Ed Poppell campus.”
Now, he is part of the early success of Innovation Square, helping to lure software development company MindTree to Gainesville by putting together 10,000 square feet of office space with room to grow in Ayers Plaza.
Poppell retired as vice president of business affairs and economic development last year after 40 years at UF. In his new role, he is responsible for overseeing development of Innovation Square, an up to 40-acre master planned development between UF's main campus and downtown Gainesville.
So far, so good. The first piece, UF's Innovation Hub business incubator on the former site of Shands at AGH, is filling up faster than expected, Poppell said.
When MindTree came calling and wanted space near the university with room for 400 employees over the next five years, he was able to offer space across the street in Ayers Plaza. Renovations are expected to start within weeks.
MindTree's announcement has brought more attention to Gainesville as a location for innovation, Poppell said.
“The business community is wanting to know what we're doing here,” he said. “They're looking at our master plan. They're excited about it. They want to be a part of an urban environment very, very close to a university in a community with a quality of life that's outstanding.”
The core of the development is the former Shands at AGH site between Southwest Second and Fourth avenues and extends for several blocks in all directions, along University Avenue and encompassing Santa Fe College's incubator and training facilities north of University Avenue. It includes properties acquired over many years, mostly for student housing, by Trimark Properties.
Trimark plans to start construction in the fall on the Infusion Technology Center adjacent to the Hub that will be an eight-story building with first-floor restaurant and retail space and seven floors of office and lab space for technology companies, followed by INSPIREation Hall, a dormitory and incubator for entrepreneurial students.
Future plans include buildings with ground-floor retail space along Southwest Second and Fourth avenues and space for private companies to develop other buildings.
Poppell said the retail space could include a bank, food services, shops and a fitness center.
He is working with developers to bring a small first-floor grocery store that would be topped with a hotel or housing that would run the gamut from college graduates to CEOs.
He also is working on luring an extended-stay facility for companies that want to collaborate with UF, whether for two months or two years.
“The one critical thing about all this is proximity to that university,” he said. “That is something we have over most every community right now is this project is a block and a half away from the university.”