Thelma Boltin Center update scheduled for next Historic Preservation Board meeting

Press release from City of Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Neighbors are invited to the next meeting of the City’s Historic Preservation Board where staff from Wannemacher Jensen Architects, Inc. (WJA) will present design concepts and a vision for the City’s Thelma Boltin Center. Everyone interested in learning more about the challenges to reopening the cultural landmark is encouraged to attend.

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6.

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

The Historic Preservation Board will not vote on any proposal at the meeting but expects to hear from stakeholders. 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 of Gainesville purchased the facility in 1946 and later renamed it in honor of its first director, Thelma Boltin.

The City is committed to protecting the community’s future through investment in municipal facilities and infrastructure. The meeting will be livestreamed on the City’s website and later archived online.

Recent timeline:

  • 2000 – Thelma 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 WJA and the Historic Preservation Board on a plan for the property.
  • Spring-Summer 2022 – City staff gathers input from stakeholders and provides updates at monthly Historic Preservation Board meetings on May 3, July 5, and August 8.
  • This news release doesn’t mention that the City Commissioners have already voted unanimously to demolish the Thelma Boltin.

    Also, fake news – the City staff did not gather input from stakeholders. If they did, who did they contact? The Thelma Boltin is surrounded by residential properties and not one owner or tenant was notified that the Thelma Boltin is scheduled to be demolished.

    • That is not accurate.

      At its April 14 meeting as the General Policy Committee, commissioners discussed several options for the future of the center but they actually voted “to replace the Thelma Boltin building, including a multi-use trail and taking elements of the old building while seeking to find the best use; continuing to work with the current design

  • Do not demolish the Thelma Boltin Center. There have been way too may demolitions of historic buildings in Gainesville. Figure out a way to preserve it. We are rapidly losing our historic structures!!!

  • “to replace the Thelma Boltin building” That means it has been removed or destroyed, and it no longer exists.

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