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Downtown street beautification shouldnt disrupt Gainesville traffic
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Jessica Tullar, Gainesville’s special projects manager, talks to Gainesville City Council on Thursday about a downtown streets beautification project. At left is Rusty Ligon, community development director.

A plan to beautify key downtown Gainesville streets shouldn’t interfere with traffic flow, officials assured City Council on Thursday.

“It’s not going to need any traffic study because we’re not going to impact any travel lanes at all,” said Rusty Ligon, Gainesville’s community development director.

He and Jessica Tullar, Gainesville’s special projects manager, talked to council members about the project during a work session, showing them a rendering depicting a spruced-up Academy Street at Green Street — an area where traffic backups frequently occur.

“This is just a concept that came out of the downtown (master) plan to help illustrate what could be done to help beautify (the area),” Tullar said. “But it also acts somewhat as a rain garden, as there’s a non-concrete area that could capture water.”

Gainesville City Council is preparing to vote Tuesday on accepting a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation $50,000 grant, which would go toward the $130,000 project.

“I believe this (grant) could prove to be a great blessing to Gainesville,” Councilman George Wangemann said, adding that downtown beautification “is something we’ve needed for a long time.”

Said Councilwoman Barbara Brooks: “Anything green, anything floral, I will fall in love with.”

Gainesville is contributing nearly $75,000, as well as providing in-house efforts, and a private donor has pledged $5,000 for trees and plants.

Also involved is the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

“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.

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.

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.

Teaming up with Gainesville residents “heightens engagement and demonstrates how green infrastructure can enhance pedestrian connectivity while effectively managing stormwater runoff,” Tullar has said.

Improvements not only make things prettier but would “alert motorists they have arrived at a destination,” she said.

A schedule for the project hasn’t been set, but Tullar expects the city could have a kickoff meeting with UGA in September or October to talk about the project timeline.

“I’m hopeful that we can start putting the shovel in the ground maybe this time next year, at the latest,” she said.

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