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Gainesville City Council discusses downtown improvements

POSTED: August 16, 2013 12:12 a.m.

Wider sidewalks, more trees and additional outdoor seating could be on the horizon as Gainesville City Council members heard a presentation Thursday on downtown revitalization.

The city was one of three municipalities in the state to get a downtown renaissance fellow for the summer to come up with redevelopment initiatives.

Fellow Elizabeth Lawandales, a landscape architecture student at the University of Georgia, worked with Gainesville officials on three projects: Develop a design elements booklet to use as a reference for upcoming projects, create streetscape enhancements for the square and catalog existing downtown design elements so future enhancements fit with the existing theme.

The is the first year for the fellowship program, which is a partnership between UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the UGA College of Environment and Design and the Georgia Municipal Association. Other fellows worked with the cities of Porterdale and Milledgeville.

City staff presented Lawandales’ work to the council. The concept on streetscaping is to narrow Bradford and Washington streets so wider sidewalks can be extended and trees could be put in. Community Development Director Rusty Ligon discussed two options, one for each street.

“We know how great the central core in downtown Gainesville is and we think to be able to expand what we have at least another block or two out is just going to be that much better for us,” said Catiel Felts, Gainesville Communications and Tourism director. “We know streetscaping is expensive, so we’ve talked about what are some things that we can do.”

Bradford Street would go from 18 feet wide to 12 feet, which could extend sidewalks by 3 feet and allow 24 trees to planted. Washington Street would go from two lanes to one, allowing the sidewalk on the left side to come out 1 foot and adding 4 feet to the sidewalk on the right-hand side. It calls for 24 trees to be planted on that street as well.

Locating funding is still an issue. A large part of whatever the total cost will be is likely to be from moving public utilities currently underground in the area.

“We’ve got some ideas, we’ve really got to dig in really deep,” Ligon said. “We’ve not really explored grant funding yet. I think that will be our next step, to explore grant funding, but there are some other sources in-house that we’re considering using.”

It will take about 2 months to identify sources to cover the construction costs. Detailed design work would be after that.

“I still think you’re talking about another year plus,” Ligon said.

In another project, Lawandales applied “FRESH” guidelines to encourage development on vacant lots in and around downtown, Ligon said.

It stands for footprint, roof shape, envelope, skin and holes, and the goal is to create similar-looking downtown buildings. Footprint is the outline of the foundation the building, while envelope is the outside shape. Urban roofs have some options, such as locating outdoor seating and energy-efficiency infrastructure there, by having a garden or terrace on top. Skin is building material, and holes represent doors and windows.

“We think it should fit in with what’s already downtown,” Ligon said. “We don’t want to try to imitate exactly what’s already there, they’re not advocating that, they just want it to match.”

Lawandales also looked at parking downtown and found there are 2,495 parking spaces there, with 1,373 on-street parking and 1,122 off-street parking spots. All downtown parking includes the parking deck and is free, Felts said.


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