City’s Historic Preservation Board to consider demolition request for Thelma A. Boltin Center

Press release from City of Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Neighbors are invited to the next meeting of the City of Gainesville’s Historic Preservation Board (HPB), where it will consider a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for demolition of the City’s Thelma A. Boltin Center. The board will discuss whether to approve or deny the request for demolition and for permission to construct a new building.

The COA proposes a new building in the same architectural style to honor the history of the existing center and the legacy of Boltin, its first director, with a redesigned interior to create more functional programming space for the community, and with restored and reused existing windows. Everyone interested in learning more about the challenges to reopening this cultural landmark is encouraged to attend.

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Where: City Hall Auditorium, 200 E. University Ave.

The board will hear from stakeholders and is expected to vote on this item. Members of the board are area residents who are appointed by the Gainesville City Commission, in addition to a staff liaison.

Built in the Northeast Residential Historic District in 1943, the facility originally known as the Gainesville Servicemen’s Center was an entertainment venue for U.S. service members stationed at nearby military bases. The City purchased the facility in 1946 and later renamed it in honor of Boltin.

The meeting will be livestreamed on the City’s website and archived online.

Recent timeline:

  • 2000 – Thelma A. Boltin Center is last renovated.
  • Aug. 2019 – Gainesville City Commission approves a comprehensive renovation of the center.
  • March 2020 – Center closes due to the pandemic.
  • Dec. 2020 – City staff discovers a portion of the roof over the center’s auditorium appears collapsed, and hires a structural engineering firm to assess the damage and secure the roof.
  • Nov. 2021 – Firm finds structural damage to the center, and recommends either demolition and replacement of the auditorium, or demolition of the entire building.
  • April 2022 – Gainesville City Commission directs staff to work with Wannemacher Jensen Architects, Inc. (WJA) and the HPB on a plan for the property.
  • Spring-Summer 2022 – City staff gathers input from stakeholders, and provides updates at monthly HPB meetings on May 3, July 5, and August 8.
  • August 8, 2022 – City staff meets with Rick Gonzalez from REG Architects to discuss a feasibility study for the complete restoration of the building.
  • August 2022 – City’s Code Enforcement division declares the center a “Dangerous Building;” utilities disconnected from the building for safety reasons.
  • September 6, 2022 – WJA and City staff deliver a presentation with options for reconstruction of a new facility to the HPB.
  • October 18, 2022 – City staff provides an update to the HPB.
  • November 1, 2022 – REG Architects, Inc. delivers a presentation on the restoration option to the HPB.
  • November 8, 2022 – City staff applies for a COA for demolition of the center. 
  • Follow the money, something fishy here. NO maintenance for a long, long period and I understand damage from this intentional lack of care is not as serious as the hired gun architect makes it out to be. Who wants the land and for what?

  • Tax payers deserve a usable space that serves the community. It just doesn’t make sense to spend 6-7 million to repair a crumbling building that is undersized when you could have a new, state of the art community center for half that price.

  • The building is in shambles and is a safety concern. Time for an upgrade!

  • Can’t wait to get my groove on in the new facility. New building will carry on Thelma’s legacy.

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