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4 takeaways from Gainesville Mayor Sam Couvillon’s first address to the Chamber of Commerce
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Gainesville Mayor Sam Couvillon - photo by Scott Rogers

Sam Couvillon addressed the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, Jan. 18, for the first time as Gainesville’s newly elected mayor, providing updates on various projects in the city and talking about ways the city could improve traffic issues. 

Here are some key takeaways from his address. 

Transportation funding

Couvillon called the need for TSPLOST in Hall County “imperative” as traffic issues loom with the city’s continued growth. 

TSPLOST, or transportation special purpose local option sales tax, is a one-penny sales tax that a county or region in Georgia can implement similar to SPLOST. TSPLOST funds can only be used for transportation improvements, while SPLOST funds are for a broader range of capital projects.

“For those of us that live in Hall County … we receive more sales tax from outside of our community,” Couvillon said. “If we were to pass a T-SPLOST, then we have these residents from these outside neighboring counties helping pay for our roads and bridges.”

Hall County commissioners would have to trigger a referendum on a single-county TSPLOST proposal and include specific projects that would be funded with additional tax revenue. In the past, the need for state approval of projects before setting up TSPLOST has been a sticking point. 

For example, Gainesville is set for a widening of Green Street, but the Georgia Department of Transportation is not expected to begin construction until 2025. The city was bumped up in the queue, originally slated for 2030, but residents will still have to wait for those major traffic improvements. 

Latest on downtown projects

Downtown Gainesville has seen huge growth recently, with Gainesville Renaissance nearing completion and residents moving into new Solis Gainesville apartments in the past two weeks. 

The Times reported earlier this month, Taqueria Tsunami would start a new location at Gainesville Renaissance, expected to open later this year, and Couvillon said another tenant could be announced soon. Brenau University’s  Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling will move into the second floor of Gainesville Renaissance in the next month as well. 

Downtown streetscaping is expected to finish up this quarter, Couvillon said, patching up parts of Bradford Street and Washington Street that are still being repaired. Sidewalks on Bradford Street are nearly complete, and those on Washington Street are close as well. 

The new parking deck next to the downtown library is expected to be open between March and June this year, Couvillon said. 

Business park progressing

Construction on the Gainesville 85 Business Park is chugging along. 

The 1,300-acre industrial site between Fullenwider Road and Athens Highway/U.S. 129 will be the largest business park in northeast Georgia when complete, Couvillon said.

The first phase of the project is expected to finish late this year, which includes extending Fullenwider Road and building a connector from Allen Creek Road to U.S. 129. A separate project to construct a sanitary lift station and associated sewer pipelines will begin early this year. 

Last February, Cottrell announced it would invest $125 million to build a 500,000-square-foot building in the business park to expand its operations.  

The entire project should be finished midway through 2023, Couvillon said. 

Lake Lanier boathouse renovations

Lake Lanier Olympic Park is renovating its boathouse, which was originally built for the 1996 Olympics. 

Construction is expected to start this spring and finish in 2023, Couvillon said. The new building will have 10,000 square feet of meeting space, a boardroom and a ballroom. 

The park has a $5 million annual economic impact on the city,” he said. 

“We’re looking at expanding that and giving our community one more venue to be able to use,” Couvillon said. “You can see that 275,000 people visited Lake Lanier Olympic Park last year and we’re looking to increase that.”