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Top story No. 9: Debate over Georgia Mountains Center

POSTED: January 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Gainesville's City Council has heard proposals and mulled over ideas, but they really aren't any closer today to deciding what direction to take with the Georgia Mountains Center than at the beginning of the year.

The issue of downtown parking been discussed for years, but it had seemed closer to becoming a reality this year.

City Council has been discussing not only the need for additional parking downtown, but also expanding the city-owned Georgia Mountains Center. Plans were presented back in August by architect Steve Hill which would entail spending six months and $6 million to level the current parking deck at the center and build another.

Though it would add some 200 parking spaces to the existing 223, there are concerns about parking during both demolition and construction, as well as cost.

The city had budgeted some $5 million for the new deck and the state legislature had put another $2 million for the project in this year's Economic Development budget. However, Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed that funding, along with other measures.

Parking deck plans also drew controversy when there was some discussion that relocating it could endanger the theater. Those plans were scrapped.

Councilman George Wangemann said last week that the city continues to discuss options for the Mountains Center and is leaning toward first establishing a master plan for what to do with the entire area.

He said other members of the City Council also are concerned about the cost of the various proposals they've heard. They have been getting input from many arenas, including businesses, city staff members and members of the Georgia Mountains Center advisory committee.

Adding to the mix for the downtown area, City View LLC is proposing to build a much-anticipated 250-room hotel in Gainesville's Midtown area. The development company will go before Gainesville's planning and appeals board with their application in its first meeting of 2008.

Meantime, the City Council still faces pressure to address the complaints about parking downtown.



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