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Gainesville looks to acquire insurance office for future downtown parking deck
Turner Wood & Smith Insurance plans to sell its building at 100 Brenau Ave. to the city of Gainesville, which wants to turn the property into a parking deck for the north end of downtown. The company has been in the building since 1986.

Gainesville officials are looking to spend about $1.52 million to acquire a property along a central downtown corridor, with a parking lot in mind that will one day “kind of be a bookend” to the square.

It also marks the first step in the future of one of Gainesville’s venerable insurance practices.

“This all came about quickly … and we got it for a fair price,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said.

Turner, Wood & Smith has called 100 Brenau Ave., near the intersection of Bradford and Academy streets, its home since 1986.

The property on the “outskirts” of the square is seen as a vital link in facilitating future development downtown, city officials said.

And they see redeveloping the northern areas of downtown as requiring another parking deck to accompany the free one located next to the Brenau Downtown Center, just off Jesse Jewell Parkway.

City officials unveiled a new strategic plan last year to guide and manage growth downtown through 2045, with a focus on both the square’s history and potential.

Major proposals in the plan include new housing, fairs and festivals, improved streets and walkways, and better pedestrian connectivity between the square, midtown and business corridors such as Oak Street, and Brenau University.

Officials also want to make downtown more accessible to residential neighborhoods off Green Street.

Lackey said adding a parking deck on the north side of downtown, which could potentially include retail space on the ground level, would likely be years away and require special purpose local option sales tax revenue to pay for construction.

“We are not in a position to be able to move on that right now,” he added.

The property’s value, including land and building, had a tax-assessed value of $634,000 in 2011 and $809,900 this year.

The 10,000-square-foot building sits on about a half-acre.

Turner, Wood & Smith in the meantime will remain operating at the site for the next year.  

The company will lease from the city for $13,600 per month after closing on the sale, which is scheduled for November, Lackey said.

He added that some space could be used for city functions, office and storage in the near future.

An option is available for Turner Wood & Smith to continue leasing an additional year.

Joe Wood Jr., president and CEO, said the company has simply outgrown its current home, and additional space is needed for everything from parking to expanded services.

The building was first constructed in 1950, according to tax records.

Three decades after moving to the building, the insurance firm employs about 40 people, Wood said, and the agency may either move into a larger, existing building, or construct something new on a vacant property.

Wood said the company would remain in the city limits either way.

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