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Gainesville residents make downtown dreams known at event

City held comprehensive plan workshop

POSTED: August 12, 2011 12:10 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

A group tosses around ideas about the future of Gainesville during Thursday evening's 2030 Gainesville Comprehensive Plan workshop held at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

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Gainesville officials and residents whipped out their markers and scissors Thursday night to give the city a whole new look.

Representatives from Urban Collage, a design and planning firm, laid several table-sized maps out for residents to adjust by pasting photos of housing units, cafes, picnic areas, sidewalks and stores - everything that could make Gainesville lively and beautiful.

Attendees to the 2030 Gainesville Comprehensive Plan workshop broke into groups and gathered around the maps.

"What we're trying to do is get more housing here," Mayor Ruth Bruner said as she waved her hand over the midtown region of Gainesville.

Markers in hand, they set to widening sidewalks, coloring in park areas and designing new ways to draw attention to downtown Gainesville.

The workshop was the second in a series of three community meetings to get residents interested in the plan and provide feedback for Urban Collage and other firms that plan to make the 2030 vision a reality.

The first workshop focused on roads leading into the city.

Thursday's workshop, which covered development in midtown, western downtown, Green Street and two neighborhood planning units in the Bradford and Ridgewood area and Fair Street area, attracted more people and seemed more exciting, said Bob Begle, workshop leader from Urban Collage.

"We said ‘go,' and boom, everybody's off and running," Begle said.

He added the workshop allows Urban Collage to understand what most people want for Gainesville.

"This gets a lot of ideas on the table for us," he said.

Some were enthusiastic about businesses with loft apartments on the second floors to bring residents into the city and create an exciting downtown atmosphere.

"You bring in the retail, then you bring in the people to support it," said Debra Harkrider, owner of Main Street Market on the downtown square.

Harkrider added she'd like to see more entertainment and business that would draw the city's younger crowd.

Many people favored more green space, including pathways and wider sidewalks. Others were interested in progress, but not at the expense of Gainesville's historic buildings.

Gainesville resident Debbie Shore's group was particularly excited about renovating older, unused buildings and adding as much natural landscaping as possible

"We've been really interested in preserving historical architecture," she added.

Councilman George Wangemann's and Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras' group set their eyes on expanding Brenau University further north and west.

"Brenau's going to grow, that's for sure," Wangemann said.

And while most of the attendees were 21 or older, Jonathan Dobbins, 9, set the record for the youngest city planner in Gainesville.

"I was thinking about putting in a skateboard park. ... I think it should be closer to the police station because there's more safety there," he said.

The next 2030 Gainesville Comprehensive Plan Community Workshop is set for Sept. 8 and will cover Browns Bridge Road, Atlanta Highway and the Lakeshore Mall area.



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