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Gainesville hopes to attract 'residentially focused' downtown development
development future
Gainesville officials are once again seeking proposals to develop two parking lots off the downtown square fronting Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Request for proposals

What: Gainesville officials will hold a pre-proposal meeting and site tour before accepting proposals to redevelop two lots downtown that front Jesse Jewell Parkway
When: 2 p.m. Feb. 8; proposals due by March 10
Contact: City Manager Bryan Lackey, 770-535-6865 or

Gainesville officials are once again seeking proposals to develop two parking lots off the downtown square fronting Jesse Jewell Parkway.

“We are looking for a project that is residentially focused, pedestrian friendly and will enhance our thriving downtown,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said in a statement Friday.

City officials rejected all bids to develop a mixed-use project at these sites in 2014 and 2011 because they did not fit the city’s vision and developers asked for tax incentives officials did not support.

“We feel that the location and visibility of this property is too important for the city to compromise on its development,” Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard wrote in a memo to city council members in 2014.

The city-owned parcels between Main Street, Broad Street, Jesse Jewell Parkway and the former Gainesville Midland railroad land along West Academy was once home to the Cooper Pants factory, which burned in 1936 killing 60 to 70 workers after a tornado ripped through Gainesville.

For years, city officials have eyed this land as ripe for residential and retail development that can serve as a connector and gateway between midtown and downtown.

That desire, especially for housing, has become more pressing since the release of a downtown strategic plan in 2015 that aims to manage growth in and around the square for years to come.

Lackey said this plan, which calls for new housing, new events, improved streets and walkways, as well as better connectivity between the square, midtown and adjacent business corridors, sets the tone for the proposals the city wants to see.

Additional research was done this time around to aid potential developers with their bids, and Lackey said the city hired a firm to study the property for best uses and broaden the number of contacts with potential developers.

A site tour will be held Feb. 8, and an evaluation committee will review all project proposals the last week of March.

The request for proposals comes on the heels of the city’s plans to tear down the old Hall County jail on Main Street in the midtown district, located on the opposite side of Jesse Jewell from downtown.

Gainesville officials plan to sell that cleared 4-acre lot to a developer with a mixed-use retail and residential project in mind.

The city is taking on the cost of demolishing the jail because its high price is seen as a major barrier to attracting private investment in the property and facilitating broader redevelopment of the midtown district.

Meanwhile, private plans to develop a two-story, 40,000-square-foot mixed-use project including office and retail space on the “fourth side of the square” where a parking lot now exists have not yet materialized.

City officials hope this property, when developed, will match their own wishes to increase housing in the downtown square.