A concept to widen sidewalks and allow more outdoor seating in Gainesville’s square is still a popular idea among retailers downtown, but it lacks funding.
The city’s traffic engineering department presented the idea at the Gainesville City Council retreat in January.
The plan includes narrowing Washington Street, between Green and Bradford, to one lane and extending the sidewalks to allow shops and pedestrians more room. It would also include beautifying Green and Bradford streets.
Regina Mansfield, Main Street Gainesville manager, said outdoor seating is very popular this time of year.
“I like going down there and seeing people out there because it creates the whole aesthetics appearance,” Mans-field said. “It’s nice to see folks out there.”
The idea is part of the city’s comprehensive plan as a potential project and has come up in the transportation focus group meetings to develop a Gainesville transportation plan with the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“The square is our crowned jewel of the city,” said Dee Taylor, the city’s traffic engineer. “So we always want to have something in particular lined up in a direction to go and really to carry out the existing streetscape that we have around the square and expand on that.”
Owner Don Griffin of Frames You Nique store, on Main Street, said he supports more outdoor seating. He said he’d like to see more bistro-type seating around the square or seating in the center of the square for concert venues.
“It would (be) good to have more seating as long as the safety of the traffic was not impacted,” Griffin said. “Because Washington (Street) is pretty busy.”
Chris Richardson, owner of both Recess Southern Gastro-pub and YellowFin restaurant on Bradford Street, said he was for the change as long as the city’s construction is short. He has about 14 seats outside under a cover at Recess.
“I’d love to see the street done, but how it’s done, now if they did it in small sections like in front of a building or two at a time and got it done within a week, surely that would be great,” Richardson said. “If they rip the whole street up, that would be a nightmare for everybody.”
Taylor said it doesn’t make sense to start designing the project because there’s no funding for it. Right now there’s not a lot of grant money available to start this project.
“It’s a wish list, if you will,” Taylor said. “These kinds of things I want for Christmas, but until I get money to pay for the things on the list, Santa can’t bring it.”
The city is now concentrating on bigger traffic headaches, such as Green Street. The project on the square could cost about $2 million to $3 million. Public utilities may need to be moved or relocated, Taylor said.
The comprehensive plan is expected to be reviewed in the next couple years. Updating the plans can help find funding for these projects, Taylor said.