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Gainesville officials focus on downtown growth, connecting to midtown
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Development of downtown Gainesville continues March 18, 2019, on the Carroll Daniel headquarters building at 330 Main Street. - photo by Scott Rogers

Change is coming to downtown Gainesville — and that’s not just the square.

City spokeswoman Nikki Perry said officials want to market downtown as more than just the four sides of the square.

“The connectivity between different parts of downtown, the Brenau historic district and Green Street, the Longwood Park area, midtown — all that is downtown according to our master plan and our comprehensive plan. ... There’s lots of opportunity and activity all over downtown,” Perry said. “It’s not all just happening on the square. While that is the heart of our downtown and that is where the most activity will always be by nature, I think connecting those other areas and changing the perception that people have of downtown is very important to the future of downtown.”

Parkside on the Square, a multi-use development is set to break ground later this year and change the face of the square itself. Parkside will have 32 condominiums — bringing residents to the square — as well as retail and restaurants on the first floor.

City Manager Bryan Lackey said having people living on the square can keep the area busier on the nights and weekends, not just during the day when workers are nearby. While progress has been made with offering more nightlife on the square, Parkside will help boost that goal, he said.

“Our master plan talks about wanting to have more rooftops, more 24/7 presence downtown, to bring people in,” Lackey said. “Traditionally, the square has been a daytime type of place with lots of activity during the day.”

Another development coming to downtown is Carroll Daniel Construction’s new headquarters at the corner of Jesse Jewell Parkway and Main Street. The 60,000-square-foot building will have leasable space for retail, restaurants or offices on the first floor.

The company plans to move in in August, President and CEO Brian Daniel said. On March 5, employees signed a steel beam to commemorate the “topping out” of the building, meaning the building is structurally complete and brick and glass can now go up.

Carroll Daniel has been in its current building on Athens Street since the 1940s, and Daniel said the company wanted to stay in Gainesville. Downtown seemed like a good fit.

“As we began to search for places that could handle the growth that we had and the need for extra space, we just realized that that downtown area was where we wanted to be,” Daniel said. “It’s vibrant and growing, and there are a lot of options for our people to go find something to eat for lunch or a beer after work or shop retail during the day.”

To accommodate for growth, the city expanded its parking deck on Main Street, adding two new floors. The deck closed in September for construction. Three floors reopened in November, and the top three floors opened in February. The deck now has about 600 spots, and the fifth floor will have 64 spots set aside for Parkside residents.

Events that have traditionally taken place downtown will be moving this year — Beach Bash is going to Lake Lanier Olympic Park, while the Spring Chicken Festival will be in Longwood Park. Main Street Gainesville, a city-sponsored downtown development program that plans events, will be hosting two movie nights on Roosevelt Square in the summer, with the hopes of bringing foot traffic downtown to make up for the two festivals moving.

To compensate for the loss of some of these events, the Gainesville Business Coalition, a group of downtown businesses, has formed to host other events.

Mike Mills, general manager of the ChopBLOCK restaurant set to open on the square this spring, said he was excited to see the action on the square this summer.

“I just like all the activities that the city is doing, and all the small businesses are doing,” Mills said. “I think this is going to be a great summer for concerts and music. It’s going to be great.”