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Grant could help Gainesville complete greenway
City continues to construct midtown project
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Gainesville officials are “moving full steam ahead” on the midtown greenway project as they apply for grants to finish up construction of the multi-use trail.

“We’ve completed three sections and are nearly ready to install benches, bike racks and tree plantings, which we’ve already received funding for,” said Jessica Tullar, Gainesville’s special projects manager. “We’re working on design and engineering for the rest of the greenway and old maintenance yard.”

The completed sections run between Parker and Banks streets.

Tullar is also collaborating with public utilities employees on the stormwater retention pond near the greenway and next to the city’s new public safety complex off Queen City Parkway.

“That has allowed us to use bioretention efforts in the area,” she explained to City Council members on Thursday.
The city plans other additions along the greenway.

“We want to build an outdoor venue for concerts or the farmers market or the butterfly release,” Tullar said. “And we’re proposing a playground that overlooks Flat Creek where families can hang out and throw Frisbees.”

The venue would be built where the old rail yard is, and the playground would be located near the fire department.

Design is 60 percent complete for the project, and Tullar said she hopes to obtain a permit to begin breaking ground in March. The construction will then take 18-24 more months to complete.

When complete, the 12-foot-wide concrete path will stretch from Mule Camp Springs to Industrial Boulevard, and long-term plans will connect the Rock Creek Greenway on the opposite side of downtown to a future Central Hall trail.

“Funding is the necessary evil here, and we’ve looked at all different sorts of funding opportunities, including a transportation enhancement grant,” she said.

On Tuesday, council members are set to allow Tullar to move forward with an application to the Transportation Enhancement Grant Program, which is a federally funded reimbursement program administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation. It was established by the Federal Highway Administration to enrich the traveling experience of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians by helping a community’s transportation system with aesthetic and functional improvements to historical, natural and scenic areas.

Under a 20 percent local match, the grant application will request $800,000 in federal dollars with a $200,000 match from the city for the $1 million project budget. Council members approved use of Economic Development Fund dollars in June for completing midtown projects.

“We’ve received funds from this grant in the past, and if history repeats itself, it’s unlikely we’ll receive full funding,” she told council members. “It’s likely to be 25-40 percent of what we’re asking, but every little bit will help the greenway to get closer to the final product.”

Tullar hopes to transform the area into a “live-work-play” community.

“It looks like a fairly sizable project budget, but because the nature of it takes multiple years, when it’s all said and done and we have it on the ground, all of that together will have a huge aesthetic impact and spur private investment,” she said.

After this week’s ribbon cutting at the new public safety complex, officials hope ongoing development in the midtown area with the greenway and pedestrian bridge construction in February will spark investment in the City View Center hotel and office building sites.

“I’m convinced that as soon as the economy breaks, we’re going to see a huge surge in development in midtown, and part of that will come from the greenway,” Mayor Ruth Bruner said.

Council member Bob Hamrick suggested contacting local legislators to push for DOT approval of the grant, and council member George Wangemann said he looks forward to midtown developing alongside downtown.

“Midtown seems to be redeveloping from the outside in. The borders are the places where that will spur on further redevelopment,” Wangemann said. “Some are in fear that the future midtown may be competing with downtown, but it seems in Main Street meetings they are working together and not opposing each other.”