GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Gainesville residents, businesses and city officials say they are looking forward to the imminent completion of some $200 million in new development and infrastructure upgrades to the city’s historic downtown.
A combination of public and private financing will bring new apartments, shops, restaurants, venues and higher education facilities to the area surrounding the Gainesville Square, as well as improved sidewalks and parking options.
“If the core of Gainesville isn’t vibrant and solid, then it won’t reach its full potential,” said Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey. “This allows us to create that sense of a real downtown where people want to go and live.”
After construction was delayed by the pandemic, Lackey said he expects the projects to be completed between the end of this year and early 2022.
Two of the largest components are a pair of mixed-use developments known as the Gainesville Renaissance and Solis Gainesville, respectively.
The Renaissance, led by Roddy Properties, is a $25 million, three-story building on the Spring Street side of the square with space for six retail stores and two restaurants on the first floor. The second floor will house Brenau University’s adolescent psychology department. The third floor is comprised of seven condos.
First-floor restaurants are under final negotiations, but the development is planned to be finished at the end of this year with only minor tasks left to finish in January, according to Lackey.
The Solis Gainesville project is a $50 million dollar mixed-use development led by Terwilliger Pappas. The six-acre piece of property will include 223 apartments and two restaurants facing Jesse Jewell Parkway. The restaurants will be located right outside Gainesville Square at the end of a pedestrian bridge formerly known to locals as the “bridge to nowhere.”
Other projects include the $15 million Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse and Music venue and a $75 million Courtyard Marriott hotel and apartment complex named The National.
Lackey said two of the private projects are in a tax allocation district, which means they could get reimbursed for some of their property taxes over the next 15 years. He said the city has approved up to $11 million in tax reimbursements for The National and $3 million for the Gainesville Renaissance, but the final amount will be determined by how much the developers have spent on the projects.
Additionally, the city is undertaking $3 million in streetscaping, which will come out of the general fund, and $13 million for a new parking deck on the north side of the square funded by local sales taxes.
Chris Richardson, a local business owner who operates three restaurants on the square — Re-cess Southern Gastro Pub, Stables at Re-cess, and YellowFin — said he welcomed the changes, even though the construction has been a headache compounded by pandemic restrictions.
“The construction impacted us hard because of a parking standpoint, just the chaos,” he said, adding that the sidewalk renovations restricted front door access for businesses on Bradford Street.
But the city tried to work around those businesses’ schedules, Richardson said, and now that the work is ending, his restaurants are starting to see a rise in customers.
“All three of my restaurants will gain outside seating because of the sidewalk expansion,” he said. “When the weather is nice, outside seating is desirable, which will bring a lot of new faces around.”
Holly Litton, 49, lived in Gainesville for 10 years before moving to Cumming, Ga., and said she was surprised to see the square now. She said the renovations are giving downtown Gainesville a facelift.
“I usually am passing through Gainesville, so this is my first time walking through the square in quite a while and I am amazed at what is going on,” she said.
Mary Lina Pardue, 48, the director of the children’s ministry at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, said she comes downtown to eat, shop, and get her hair done at a local salon.
“This gives us a full downtown, like a destination where everyone wants to be,” Pardue said.