The Swamp Restaurant to return to Gainesville in 2022 in brand-new building that will capture the charm and likeness of the original, historic landmark.
The Swamp Restaurant, a grill, bar, and event venue that served as a staple cultural landmark in the Gainesville community from its establishment in 1994 to its controversial closure and demolition in the Summer of 2020, today announced it will be returning to Gainesville in 2022 in a newly-constructed building that will fully capture the unique character, charm, and likeness of the original, historic building in which it was located for over twenty-five years.
The Swamp Restaurant will move from its former location at 1642 W. University Avenue in the area known as Midtown to a location at 1026 SW Second Avenue in the Gainesville Innovation District, less than two blocks from the University of Florida’s main entrance on Southwest 13th Street. It plans to re-open in August 2022 in time for the first game of the Florida Gators football season.
“We were inspired by the overwhelming support we received from the Gator Nation when news broke that The Swamp’s original building was being knocked down,” said Ryan Prodesky, owner of The Swamp Restaurant. “We’re excited to announce that due to the dedication and loyalty from our clients, The Swamp will be reborn in a new location.”
From the time The Swamp opened its doors in December of 1994 to its closure twenty-five years later, the restaurant acted as a gathering place for University of Florida students, alumni, and Gainesville citizens alike. Its façade become iconic to those familiar with Gainesville: the two-story building with its white trim and white picket fence, which was originally constructed in 1914 as a professor’s house and then remodeled in 1993 after it was nearly destroyed by a fire, stood out as a charming and unexpected landmark amongst the adjacent college bars. If it weren’t for the tables of people eating and drinking on the front lawn, which seemed to be filled no matter what time of day or which season you passed by it, the restaurant could easily be mistaken for an inviting historic house.
Located just across the street from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where the Florida Gators football team hosts home games against rival teams, over the years the restaurant arguably became the most popular and iconic venue for gameday festivities besides the stadium itself, even becoming synonymous with Florida Gators football.
“The Swamp has a symbiotic relationship with Gator Football,” said Prodesky. "The bigger the win, the bigger the party!”
Not just a place for gameday tailgating and celebrations, it was also a popular event venue year-round, hosting an estimated hundreds of thousands of guests for graduation ceremonies, Greek life functions, alumni weekends, birthday parties, career fair meet-and-greets, and more. It seemed almost everyone who passed through Gainesville visited the Swamp and created their own memories there, cementing its status as a beloved restaurant in the community.
“When people think of The Swamp, they think of so much more than a restaurant. They think of having Sunday brunch on the front lawn with their friends, watching the Gators homecoming game on the big screen outside, or celebrating their 21st birthday,” said Prodesky. “Given its 25-year history, I’ve heard stories from multiple students that their parents even met at The Swamp.”
Ultimately, to many in the Gainesville community, The Swamp was more than just a restaurant and bar; it was a place where they made life-long memories with the people they were closest to, and it became a symbol of nostalgia.
“We’re in the business of making memories, not just great food,” said Prodesky.
The emotional impact that The Swamp had on its visitors was highlighted when it was announced in early 2019 that a national developer was looking to purchase the land where The Swamp was located and demolish all of the buildings on the site. In return, they planned to construct a mixed-use development which would feature hundreds of student apartment units above a ground floor featuring retail and restaurant space. It was announced soon after that The Swamp would return to the same location in one of those bottom-floor restaurant spaces, though Prodesky feared it would have a “big box” feel that would strip away the authentic, local atmosphere that people had come to associate with the restaurant.
When news of the iconic restaurant’s impending closure and building demolition broke, members of the Gator Nation from all over the world banded together in an effort to save the business and keep it located in its existing building.
A UF student created a Change.org petition urging the preservation of the original building which received over 34,000 signatures.
There was also an attempt by Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini to file an amendment to House Bill 7103 that would designate the century-old building as a fully-protected historic landmark in order to prevent its demolition. The amendment would impose a $10,000,000 fine on any local government that approved a development order resulting in the destruction of the property. In a Tweet, Sabatini even declared The Swamp Restaurant “…Florida’s most significant cultural and historical landmark…”.
UF’s Student Government similarly proposed a student bill entitled “Resolution to Save the Swamp!” that backed Representative Sabatini’s efforts, describing the restaurant as a “…hub of culture and camaraderie for the University of Florida community”.
Despite these collective efforts, The Swamp Restaurant officially closed its doors on June 30th, 2020, and the historic building was razed to the ground in July of 2020.
Though the original plan was to locate The Swamp into the first-floor restaurant space of the mixed-use development on the land where the old restaurant once sat, after further consideration Prodesky wanted to ensure that, if he were to bring The Swamp back, the original ambience and charm of the restaurant was preserved.
In order to accomplish this, Prodesky teamed up with Trimark Properties, a local Gainesville real estate developer widely known for historic preservation, infill projects, and upscale, high-quality developments. The firm will develop a custom building that will fully resemble The Swamp’s original, landmark structure, preserving its historic charm while providing a brand-new, state-of-the-art kitchen and bar.
The new building will be nearly identical to the former headquarters, with all of the unique characteristics that added to the charisma of the original restaurant and bar. From the front lawn to the second-story event space to the memorabilia that covered the walls, the new building will feature all of the elements that former visitors will fondly recognize, just in a different location a few blocks away.
When selecting a new location for The Swamp, Prodesky’s main priority was for it to be positioned in an area of town that was still within close proximity to the University of Florida campus, student life, and, most importantly, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
He decided that the Gainesville Innovation District, the corridor between the UF campus and downtown, would be the perfect fit for the restaurant.
“As an up-and-coming area of Gainesville, our team thought that the Innovation District would be the ideal location for The Swamp to be re-born,” said Prodesky.
The Innovation District, which is located just east of the UF campus, is quickly establishing itself as Gainesville’s central business district. Described as the hub of the city’s entrepreneurial spirit, the vision for the area is to be a complete live, work, play development with over 5,000,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space upon its completion. Already home to over 80 companies ranging from start-ups to global industry leaders, Prodesky states that the new location will help support the restaurant in serving the many working professionals in the area for lunches, dinners and brunches while they reminisce on their college memories.
In its new location in the District, The Swamp will still be walking distance to the football stadium and Midtown, but will be closer to UF Sorority Row – ideal for a restaurant that was a favorite amongst UF’s Greek organizations – and some of Gainesville’s most upscale housing options.
“It’s where many students live and where some of the most prominent companies in Gainesville are located,” said Prodesky. “It’s still in an ideal location for gameday tailgates, and can also serve as a lunch or dinner spot for UF students and faculty as well as people living and working in the District.”
The Swamp is set to open in in its new location in August 2022, in time for the first football game of the season. It will begin taking reservations for gameday and grad weekends and in advance.
The Swamp’s website, which is back up and running following a hiatus after the restaurant’s temporary closure, now features a sign-up for the “Swamp Cam” which will show the building under construction. It will also feature information on upcoming events.
Prodesky is asking students, alumni, friends, and family to share their favorite memories at The Swamp by using the hashtag #swampmemories.