Gainesville has plans to spruce up Old City Hall and Roosevelt Square, in hopes it will make the area more attractive as a conference and event space.
“We are really excited about this, because right now we don’t have a lot of conference space downtown,” said Robyn Lynch, the city’s tourism director.
The inside of Old City Hall will be opened up to allow for gatherings of less than 100 people. It will include multiple meeting rooms, a catering area, kitchen, renovated restrooms and storage space. Plus, the building will be more accessible with a new ramp to be added on the east side, planning documents show.
The renovations are part of a $900,000 project approved by the city in September. The project is being funded through SPLOST, a one-penny sales tax for capital projects.
Architects are still working on an estimated timeline for the project, Lynch said.
The venue could be a valuable conference space once The National is complete downtown, which will add more than 140 apartments and a 130-room Courtyard by Marriott within walking distance.
“With the hotels that are right within the location, this is a great added benefit for conferences who want to come, stay in a hotel, walk to their meeting space, and also walk to lunch,” Lynch said. “This really kind of brings all of that within the downtown area.”
Improvements at adjacent Roosevelt Square will include taking out some trees and adding seating areas including one on the east side of Old City Hall, said Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard. The plan would create a better connection between the square and the pocket park being built next to Gainesville Renaissance on Spring Street, Sheppard said.
“We want to make sure that the sight lines work really well so when you’re downtown you can see … all the way through to the (pedestrian) bridge,” Sheppard said.
Changes to the square could invite in more events, including opportunities for food trucks and other vendors, Lynch said.
Parts of the square are owned by Hall County and Gainesville. The county agreed to give the city $200,000 to make improvements to the square through an intergovernmental agreement. Gainesville City Council is expected to approve the agreement at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 1.
The plan is to create a stronger connection between the Highlands to Islands trail network that runs from the downtown Gainesville square, through the pocket park and into Roosevelt Square, eventually crossing over Jesse Jewell Parkway via the pedestrian bridge.
Construction at Solis Gainesville, a 223-unit apartment development at the other end of the pedestrian bridge, is expected to be complete in April, said Taylor Scalera, marketing coordinator for Solis. The bridge should be open around the end of February.