More development coming to Maricamp Road

Motorists drive on Southeast Maricamp Road east of the intersection of Southeast 25th Avenue. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

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Posted April 11, 2021 | By Ainslie Lee, | Photography by Bruce Ackerman

At just less than 2.5 miles, what was once a sleepy part of town is transforming into a hub.

Motorists drive on Southeast Maricamp Road east of the intersection of Southeast 25th Avenue. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]The stretch of Maricamp Road roughly between Southeast 47th and 25th Avenues continues to be a beehive of activity.

Among the more recent additions are Ocala Health System’s Maricamp ER, 2897 SE Maricamp Rd., which opened the doors to its 10,000 square-foot facility in September 2019.

Close on its heels came Ocala’s fifth Wawa location, 3080 SE Maricamp Rd., which opened at the intersection of Southeast Maricamp Road and Southeast 24th Avenue in February 2020. Wawa joined the road’s gas station scene, that now number five along the stretch.

It opened across from the Publix Parkview Commons that opened in 2011 and brought with it several other businesses, including fast food restaurants, a car wash and more.

Other establishments popping up along the stretch recently include a Waffle House, a barbecue restaurant and a Starbucks.

Now, other developers are eying the corridor including a 7-Eleven near the intersection of Maricamp and Southeast 25th Avenue, a proposed 320 multi-family unit residential community nearby and more.

And while the 7-Eleven has not received final approval from the Ocala City Council, residents of the nearby Woodland Villages neighborhood are digging in for a fight.

The proposed location is in front of the community.

It isn’t the first time the community has faced off a developer. In 2015, a Walmart grocery store eyed the property.

“We’ve been through this before when a proposed mini-Walmart was proposed,” Carol Droullard, a resident of Woodland Villages, wrote to council members in an email. “The feelings of the residents have not changed since that proposal but once again we are having to protest this similar type of retail business proposed for this this area.”

Walmart backed off and nixed the store.

Droullard was just one of numerous Woodland Villages residents who penned emails to council members protesting the latest plan. Most messages, including Droullard’s, referenced concerns over how the proposed gas station would impact the neighborhood’s traffic.

“The biggest part of our protest is the traffic situation,” Droullard wrote. “Our little entry cannot support the amount of traffic that will use this road.”

The entrance to the Woodland Villages neighborhood is accessed by Southeast 25th Avenue. If constructed, the 7-Eleven would use the same road.

Motorists drive on Southeast Maricamp Road east of the intersection of Southeast 25th Avenue. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Mike Sizemore, president of the Woodland Villages homeowner’s association, asked the city to conduct a proper traffic study to analyze the effects the convenience store would have on traffic.

Residents of Woodland Villages, as well as others who frequent Southeast Maricamp Road, have watched how the boom has affected traffic.

Two people were recently injured in a six-car pileup on Southeast Maricamp Road near Southeast 31st Street early in the morning on April 2.

But according to crash statistics provided by the Ocala Police Department accidents have gone down. There were 80 vehicle accidents on Southeast Maricamp Road between Southeast 36th Avenue and Southeast 25th Avenue in 2017-18. In 2020-21, there were 53 accidents.

While accidents dropped, traffic stops and speeding citations doubled during the same period, according to statistics.

“Experiencing growth on a major thoroughfare is an important part of development within a community,” said Ashley Dobbs, Ocala spokeswoman. “Growth creates jobs, points to a healthy economy, provides opportunities for private investment and signals that a community is a desirable location for businesses and residents.”

In addition to the proposed development, another four acres in the 2800 Block of Southeast Maricamp Road could also soon come into play.

The property is currently owned by the Advocacy Resource Center of Marion County (ARC). It wants to change the zoning to allow for commercial development.

In 1964, Marion County gave 16 acres to the ARC to support its services for the developmentally disabled. A stipulation in the deal allows the county to take back the property if ARC stops providing services. The county has not decided how it would handle a change in zoning of the four acres.

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