Gainesville is looking to improve pedestrian connections around downtown and, in the process, spruce up some major roadways.
Using a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation $50,000 grant, the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government plans to work with the city on the $130,000 effort in the central business district.
“The 18-month undertaking features crosswalk improvements and other enhancements that encourage visitation, calm motor traffic, expand downtown green space and filter stormwater runoff,” states a recent press release.
Gainesville is contributing nearly $75,000 toward the project, as well as providing in-house efforts, and a private donor has pledged $5,000 for trees and plants.
The institute would help set up a citizens committee that would recommend specific locations for the improvements and recruit volunteers for a “Connect Gainesville Planting and Cleanup Day” community service event.
However, the program would target well-traveled Jesse Jewell Parkway, E.E. Butler Parkway, Academy Street and West Academy Street for installing planted medians, pedestrian islands and additional greenery.
Teaming up with Gainesville residents “heightens engagement and demonstrates how green infrastructure can enhance pedestrian connectivity while effectively managing stormwater runoff,” said Jessica Tullar, Gainesville’s special projects manager.
Improvements not only make things prettier but would “alert motorists they have arrived at a destination,” she added.
A schedule for the project hasn’t been set, and some hoops need to be jumped through before the project gets underway, Tullar said Tuesday.
“We are still in the process of the upfront administrative tasks, including (Gainesville City) Council approval via a resolution to accept the grant and executing the grant agreement,” Tullar said.
She expects the city could have a kickoff meeting with UGA in September or October to talk about the project timeline.
The institute told the city about the foundation grant opportunity as it was working with the city to develop Gainesville’s Downtown Master Plan — an effort funded through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant.
“Our development collaborations produce tangible economic benefits and help communities around the state remain vibrant and prosperous,” institute director Laura Meadows said.
The foundation approved the grant through its Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities program.
“We believe that there is a strong connection between economic development, community well-being and the stewardship and health of the environment,” said Jim Jones, Wells Fargo’s regional business banking manager.
He said the bank believes “the grant will contribute to Gainesville’s efforts to become a greener and more beautiful city.”