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Gainesville, South Hall spar for new growth
Areas see different types of development
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Gainesville single-family residential permits issued:

First six months of 2014: 121

First six months of 2015: 188

Gainesville new commercial building permits issued:

First six months of 2014: 8

First six months of 2015: 16

The growth is coming. The growth is coming.

This cry from South Hall echoes trends and patterns out of metro Atlanta, and has the effect of ginning up funding and support for the kinds of infrastructure projects needed to welcome new residential and commercial growth to the area.

But something surprising has happened along the way to tweak that chorus and refrain.

The growth is coming to Gainesville. The growth is coming to Gainesville.

More and more of the region’s growth has been concentrated in and around the city’s urban core, a reflection of both contemporary living demands and built-in geographic advantages.

“Gainesville and South Hall County are both growing, but in different ways,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “Gainesville is a product of great geography and generations of great people growing the community as a regional center. In the 14-county region of Northeast Georgia, all roads literally lead to Gainesville.”

The city set a record for home permits last year and is on pace to break that mark in 2015.

In the first six months of this year, Gainesville has issued 188 single-family residential permits, compared with just 121 during that same timeframe in 2014.

“We have been experiencing strong growth in the city over the past few years,” said Rusty Ligon, Gainesville’s Community Development Director. “Residential growth, specifically, is again this year on an all-time record pace.”

As the old saying in real estate goes, retail follows rooftops.

And so new commercial development is springing up, as well.

In the first six months of this year, 16 permits for commercial buildings were issued in the city, representing more than $20 million in construction-related costs.

Of course, Gainesville benefits from emerging growth in South Hall, whether through spillover or because residents from neighboring counties want to be closer to new jobs and services.

Hall County issued 195 single-family residential permits in the first six months of 2015, representing about $39 million in spending, and 54 permits for new building construction, remodels and additions.

“South Hall ... is going to be a fairly dense community,” said Frank Norton Jr., chairman and CEO of The Norton Agency, a Gainesville real estate firm.

Growth out of Gwinnett and Forsyth has already had an impact on residential and commercial development in South Hall communities from Braselton to Buford and Oakwood to Flowery Branch, but the new hospital in Braselton, which opened in April, is likely to focus the next wave along the Friendship Road corridor.

This, however, makes business and residential growth more likely north up the Interstate 985/Ga. 365 corridor, with Gainesville standing to benefit.

“In speaking with residents and developers, we often hear that Gainesville is an ideal place to live due to Lake Lanier, the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, our downtown square and our proximity to the mountains and Atlanta,” Ligon said.

While South Hall has the obvious room to grow, new development in the city will likely have to be up, not out.

And that could mean a variety of mixed-use projects downtown, in midtown and along corridors like Thompson Bridge Road.

“I believe, in the near future, we will see additional residential developments in and near our downtown core, likely in the form of new multi-family units and mixed-use developments,” Ligon said, adding that interest from millennials to baby boomers makes these ideal choices in the city.

Gainesville tends to draw many more renters than homeowners, and its public services, such as bus transit, attract seniors, working-class individuals and low-income families.

This, in turn, makes affordable housing projects a priority for many developers and businesses, particularly as Dawsonville Highway, Limestone Parkway and the downtown core take shape for a new generation.

“For more than 500,000 people, Gainesville is the closest metro area for employment, professional services, health care, logistics and retail,” Evans said. “Gainesville appeals to people that want all the benefits of an urban center, but still want to know their neighbors and be a part of a giving community.”

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