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Gainesville residents get glimpse of citys potential
Urban designers share vision of future of Gainesville
Brenda and Fred Powell, right, join neighbor Heyward Housch on Tuesday evening at the Georgia Mountains Center for a final chance to make a comment on the Draft 2030 Gainesville during an open house for the public.

For a minute, dream about what Gainesville could be.

Urban designers, with input from city residents, have.

What they envision is a Thompson Bridge Road in which pedestrians and cyclists can move comfortably alongside motorists. They see an Atlanta Highway that thrives on its cultural diversity.

Their dream includes a park with a fountain near Fair Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, a five-way intersection at Oak and Rainey Street that is closely tied to the nearby Ivy Terrace greenway, has streetlights and outdoor cafes.

The dream was broken down into a few story boards for residents to view — and comment on — at the Georgia Mountains Center on Tuesday night.

It is the culmination of a months-long process of citizen input on a future plan for the city's development.

Organizers said some 25 to 30 residents showed up to see the "pie-in-the-sky" plans for the future of Gainesville.

And many, like Crestview Terrace resident Joan Alford, were pleased. Particularly, she liked the way the five-way intersection at Oak and Rainey streets had been theoretically tied in with the nearby greenway. The vision for Atlanta Highway was also appealing to her.

"It's just so disastrous right now. I'd really like to see that do what they're proposing," Alford said.

Alford served on the Comprehensive Plan Task Force of residents that guided the direction of the plans. Other residents also attended a number of workshops to let city officials know what they'd like to see happen in specific areas of the city.

After she took a look at the final plans, Alford let city planning officials know she was proud of the outcome.

"I sort of think it's pie-in-the sky, but you know, if you can do just some of the things it will change a lot," Alford said.

Next month, the Gainesville City Council will decide whether to adopt a draft of the plan. It will then be sent to the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, which will allow the public more time to comment on the plans. If the commission signs off, then the council can adopt a final version of the plan within the next three months, said Gainesville Planning Manager Matt Tate.

While none of the plans seem easily attainable — many require extensive private investment — the plan is "really a clear road map to where the city and the different departments need to start putting their effort," said John Skach, a senior associate for Urban Collage, the company that conceptualized residents' ideas.

"You can't just take this plan and do a project right away," said Skach. "You have to go through more detailed studies, budgeting."

The plan includes some short-term goals for the city, including studying how to make Thompson Bridge Road more of a multimodal boulevard and the feasibility of an "eastside greenway" that would extend from midtown toward the New Holland area.

It also includes some short-term direction for a plan to deal with stormwater runoff in the city, build new fire stations and improve key intersections.

While much of the rest hinges on private investment, Skach said the city's improvements will demonstrate to the private sector what residents want and would support.

"People realize it's a long-term vision," said Skach. "But I think that they do see their contributions in the plan and saw the way their ideas translated into physical form and I think that's really exciting for everybody."