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Gainesville Renaissance breaks ground on ‘fourth side of the square’
Local philanthropist and former Coca-Cola CEO Doug Ivester shows plans for Gainesville Renaissance to an attendee of the groundbreaking Wednesday, Sept. 16, for the mixed-use project on Gainesville's square. Ivester bought the lot in 2019 after plans with another developer fell through. He is collaborating with developer Fred Roddy for the project. - photo by Thomas Hartwell

Gainesville Renaissance, the $22.4 million mixed-use development on the Spring Street side of Gainesville’s downtown square, broke ground Wednesday, Sept. 16. The development will bring residential space to the square and is one of many changes downtown will see within the next two years. 

The three-story project will have six spaces on the first floor, with two reserved for restaurants.  

Developer Fred Roddy said Wednesday that no tenants had signed on yet for the first-floor retail space. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “it’s just not really a good time to be talking to retail tenants,” he said.   

Roddy said he hopes to recruit a variety of tenants for the space. 

“We want a dining experience that will keep people here, as opposed to you get dressed up and have to go somewhere out of town to eat,” he said. “We want one or both of these restaurants to be really a place that people are really excited to stay here and enjoy.” 

The second floor will house Brenau University’s Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling. 

On the third floor are eight condominiums. Roddy said marketing for the condominiums will start next month, as sales for those had also been temporarily put on hold due to the pandemic.

A small park will run between Renaissance and the Hall County Courthouse, connecting to Roosevelt Square. An art gallery on the first floor will be another partnership with Brenau.   

Roddy Properties will develop the project on the half-acre lot purchased in 2019 by Doug Ivester, a Gainesville native and former chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. Gainesville-based Carroll Daniel Construction will be the builder, and it has been designed by Robertson Loia Roof, an Alpharetta architecture firm. 

Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey and Mayor Danny Dunagan attend the groundbreaking for Gainesville Renaissance, a mixed-use space on the downtown square, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. - photo by Thomas Hartwell

The Renaissance site has long been privately owned but open for public parking.  

Renaissance will receive $2.95 million in funding from the city’s Midtown Tax Allocation District, an incentive program that allows developers to use extra funds from higher property tax payments toward improvements on the property.  

City Manager Bryan Lackey said the city’s downtown master plan identifies the Renaissance lot as “the epicenter for redevelopment in the city of Gainesville.” 

“Everything else radiates out from this site,” he said. “Whether you’re going into midtown, Highway 129 South, Jesse Jewell in either direction or going north to Park Hill and Thompson Bridge, it all radiates out from this epicenter.” 

Another development, Parkside on the Square, had been planned for the space but fell through in 2019. Ivester and Roddy signed on soon after with proposals for Renaissance. 

Gainesville Renaissance, due to open in late 2021, will be one of several developments to change the face of downtown Gainesville in coming months.  

“We are really excited about these projects. This one right here is a long time coming,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “… We have a lot going on. We’re very fortunate, and we’re very excited.” 

Across the Jesse Jewell Parkway pedestrian bridge just a short walk from the Renaissance site, Solis Gainesville is under construction. That project from Atlanta developer Terwilliger Pappas will have 220 apartments and 10,000 square feet of space for restaurants or retail.  

Also downtown, the renovated Gainesville branch of the Hall County Library System will open Sept. 21, and across the street from the library at 100 Brenau Ave., the city of Gainesville plans to build a new parking deck. Construction on that parking deck will start in early 2021, Dunagan said Wednesday. 

Ivester, who is from the New Holland area of Gainesville, said he expected the development to impact future generations, especially with Brenau occupying space in the building.  

“Today, to me, is not about a building,” Ivester said. “Today is about dreams and it’s about giving the people of Hall County the tools and skills and education and the fortitude to realize their dreams.”