The University of Florida Foundation has purchased property that is home to a Gainesville institution: Leonardo’s By the Slice, a move the university and the business owner say is mutually beneficial.
The deal, initiated by Leonardo’s owner Steve Solomon, requires Leonardo’s to stay open until at least the summer of 2017. The university is currently studying the best use for the property, said Lee Nelson, UF’s real estate director.
The 0.4-acre parcel, located on West University Avenue just east of Southwest 13th Street, has been the home of Leonardo’s since 1973. The Foundation purchased the property and building from Maviro Corp., which has offices in Buffalo, N.Y., and St. Petersburg, and had owned the building since 1976
Solomon, 69, said he and the property owner approached the university about buying the property several months ago after he began to consider scaling back his long-time business commitments.
“The university is facilitating what we want to happen,” Solomon said. “We’ve always had a great relationship with the university. We’ve been collaborating with the university for 43 years. It makes me feel really good to do this with them.”
Nelson echoed Solomon’s sentiments.
“This is a transaction that’s good for Leonardo’s, good for the university and allows everyone to achieve their goals,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure we have an influence on the neighborhoods surrounding the university, and the strategic development plan on which the university has been working has recognized the importance of this intersection.”
The UF Foundation already owns the Kangaroo Express gas station and convenience store next door to Leonardo’s on the southeast corner of Southwest 13th Street and West University Avenue. UF also owns a vacant lot immediately south of the Kangaroo station.
Solomon said several factors influenced his decision, among them increased competition, students’ changing tastes and the growing effort of maintaining multiple locations.
“Things change,” he said. “It’s getting harder to stay open. All of that weighs heavily on my mind.”
Solomon said he plans to focus more of his attention on Leonardo‘s 706 at 706 W. University Ave., which was the original site of Leonardo’s By the Slice. As for what will happen to Leonardo’s By the Slice and the adjacent Bistro 1245, which he also owns, Solomon said he’s considering integrating those operations to Leonardo’s 706.
“We’ll see how things look a year from now,” he said.