Swamp Restaurant to reopen in 2022 in Innovation District

2022-04-26 08:21:35 By : Mr. yume Li

In a year rife with misfortunes, Gainesville mourned the loss of one of its own icons: The Swamp Restaurant. After 25 years in business, the restaurant closed its original doors for good in June before receiving the final kiss of death from a bulldozer in August.  

Sure, it was going to be rebuilt on the ground floor of the sparkling new apartment building coming to West University Avenue in its place, but it wasn’t going to be the same. And wasn’t as though The Swamp could be built anew, in the same way generations of Gator fans remembered it from football games, birthdays and evenings spent at the restaurant among friends. Or could it?  

The Swamp Restaurant will now be rebuilt a few blocks away from its original location, in Gainesville's Innovation District at 1026 SW Second Ave., with a nearly identical blueprint to the space residents and visitors know and love. An opening is planned in time for football season in 2022. 

Trimark Properties, which has worked to restore more than 65 historic homes and apartments in town, will use blueprints from The Swamp’s rebuild following a 1993 fire and photos to reconstruct the memorable two-story brick, white-trimmed building, complete with white picket fence and a large front yard. 

“It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave 17th and University,” said Ryan Prodesky, The Swamp’s owner.  

The 908 Group, the Tampa-based developer that purchased a large swath of property where The Swamp and other restaurants had been located for decades, had originally planned to reopen the restaurant at its original location in early 2022, surrounded by 8,000 square feet of commercial retail space. Above the new restaurant would have been luxury apartments. 

Community members voiced concerns about the project. Large apartment complexes in recent years have sprung up in town, especially along West University Avenue, that now take the place of several institutions and have driven establishments elsewhere or out of business entirely. 

But Prodesky said the 908 Group has received too much flak for its plans. It’s just a business trying to do what’s in its best interest, he said. 

“The 908 Group has a great project there and they’ve been wonderful to us,” Prodesky said. “This was just too good of an opportunity to turn down.” 

In a prepared statement sent to The Sun, the 908 Group said it wishes the restaurant well in its new location. 

“We are already seeing strong interest in the now available space and will continue to develop the retail portion of the project to provide Gainesville with a refreshed shopping, dining, and entertainment experience for years to come,” the statement said. 

In 1914, a home was constructed at 1642 W. University Ave., wherein resided a University of Florida professor. There the brick building remained, later the location for a couple of other different businesses, before a fire nearly destroyed it in 1993. 

In 1994, The Swamp Restaurant’s previous owner Ron DeFilippo remodeled and reopened it. For the next 25 years, students, faculty and alumni including Prodesky gathered at the space. For many, it was a game day pilgrimage. 

The new Swamp Restaurant may not be directly across the other Swamp, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but the Second Avenue location is less than a mile away. Prodesky said he expects future game days to be as busy and rowdy at The Swamp Restaurant as ever before. 

“We’re still going to throw big game day parties,” he said.  

Prodesky said he’s most looking forward to the return of the large front yard. Because the new location has even more space available, he said it’s likely to be even bigger. It may also include a new outdoor bar and stage area. 

The only other updates inside are expected to be a new kitchen layout and new placement for the restrooms. Previously, they were laid out close to the kitchen, Prodesky said, which sometimes led to traffic jams as servers and customers tried to move around inside. 

Trimark CEO John Fleming, who used to go to The Swamp back when he was a UF student as well, said he's excited to bring a piece of old Gainesville back to life.

“This is kind of fun, to rebuild something that’s been taken down,” he said.

He said Trimark will use DeFilippo’s plans and photos to rebuild The Swamp as most remember it. 

“The Swamp has a huge following, so we can look at photos people have posted there and say, ‘There’s that part we’re missing,’” he said.  

The Second Avenue site currently has two unoccupied former doctors' offices on it. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2021, with an opening planned for 2022, in time for kickoff of the Gators football season. 

The Innovation District has experienced a great deal of growth in its food options recently, with more to come. A little further east on Second Avenue is Opus Coffee’s first standalone shop, and Gainesville’s permanent food truck park is also coming early next year.  

Just a few blocks away, the 4th Ave. Food Park is also home to a variety of food and beverage options. 

“It really is an up-and-coming area to do business in,” Prodesky said. “We’re moving into a neighborhood that’s going to be fun to be a part of. 

“We’re coming up on what would have been our 26th year this month,” he continued. “We’re looking forward to another 26.”