Atlas Pizza will not be moving off the downtown Gainesville square after all.
With business running strong in its current location, co-owner Vic Jordan told The Times that the venerable local pizza joint is staying put and scrapping plans to open as a sports bar and entertainment club in a two-story, 32,000-square-foot building off West Academy, between Bradford Street and Northside Drive (305 Bradford St. is the official address).
Some renovations were made to the top floor, and a deck was built for open but covered seating and outdoor dining.
But after sitting on the property for several years, which formerly housed the Treasures for Your Home furniture store, Jordan decided the time was right to put it back on the market at an asking price of a little more than $1.2 million.
“It seemed like it was just becoming too much,” Jordan said. “And we’re doing pretty well on the square.”
Any future expansion plans for Atlas would likely include opening in the vacant upstairs space above the current location off Washington Street. But nothing is immediate.
Will Cobb, vice president and partner in the commercial sales and leasing division of The Norton Agency, a Gainesville-based real estate firm, said he understands why Atlas doesn’t want to fix what ain’t broke.
It would be a leap of faith, and a big one at that, to leave the downtown square with all its built-in advantages and move beyond the district’s traditional boundaries.
“Once you start getting off the square, you’re sticking your toe in the water a little,” Cobb said.
The Bradford Street site, however, is ripe for retail or office space, and if done right can help expand the downtown district, serve as a catalyst for more redevelopment and connect the square to more businesses on its periphery, Cobb said.
A new concept plan for downtown Gainesville focuses on the area’s potential, which could include more housing and mixed-use developments, expanded nightlife and concerts, improved pedestrian and motor vehicle access, and the addition of public art.
And because major thoroughfares surround downtown, improving sidewalks and streets to make them safer and more pedestrian-friendly from places like Brenau University and midtown will be an important component in the square’s managed growth.
But getting the most out of the building will take some ingenuity.
“In a space like this, you have to be creative,” Cobb said. “You’ve got to have vision.”
For years, Gainesville has yearned for more retail, Cobb said. And now it’s showing up along Dawsonville Highway and Thompson Bridge Road.
In fact, for the second straight year, the city broke records for the number of permits issued and revenue generated from fees on new construction, both residential and commercial included, in 2015.
That spells potential fortunes for Gainesville as more and more residents look to live, work and play in Hall County and Northeast Georgia’s urban core.
As the old real estate adage goes, retail follows rooftops.
“There are a lot of eyes on Gainesville,” Cobb said.