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Gainesville makes plans to demolish old Hall jail in midtown

City hopes to sell land to developer

POSTED: January 9, 2017 4:17 p.m.
/Times file photo

Gainesville officials have decided to demolish the old Hall County jail on Main Street in the midtown district and sell the cleared 4-acre lot to a developer.

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Gainesville officials have decided to demolish the old Hall County jail on Main Street in the midtown district and sell the cleared 4-acre lot to a developer.

“We are excited to be moving on this project,” said City Manager Bryan Lackey, adding that the city is currently seeking bidders to perform the work.

City officials hope to choose a contractor to demolish the jail by mid-March.

Officials allocated $1.6 million in the current year’s budget to demolish the jail, but Lackey said he is confident it won’t cost that much.  

“We expect the demolition to occur late this spring or early summer,” Lackey said. “The next step could be to sell or enter into a long-term ground lease. There are a couple of options we will be glad to entertain when we get to that point.”

The city will have the property appraised once the jail is demolished.

The jail has long been seen as an eyesore and impediment to broader redevelopment of the midtown area.

City officials want to connect midtown with the nascent redevelopment of the nearby Atlanta Street public housing complex, the addition of the midtown greenway trail and ongoing improvements to the adjacent downtown square.

A mixed-use retail and residential development is most desired for the property.

Gainesville purchased the jail from Hall County for more than $7 million a few years ago, but the Corrections Corp. of America vacated the facility in December 2013, leaving city taxpayers on the hook for lease payments.

Gainesville’s debt on the property stands at more than $6 million.

City Council approved a slight tax increase in 2015 to help pay some of this debt, and officials said that selling the property to a developer will get the lot back on the tax rolls.

The jail had been used in recent years as a film location for Hollywood movies, such as “Creed,” a spinoff of the famous “Rocky” franchise. It had also been used by local law enforcement to conduct active-shooter training exercises.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said that a potential developer had inquired about purchasing the jail with the intent of repurposing the existing building, but problems with the foundation and other issues scuttled these plans.

The city is taking on the cost of demolishing the jail because its high price is seen as a major barrier to attracting private investment in the property.

“We’ve exhausted all our means,” Dunagan said.



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