City officials confirmed to The Times on April 30 that the proposed B Entertainment expansion, a 15,000-square-foot music and event venue, will also include the sale of the lot where Engine 209 sits.
“That one parcel area where the Engine 209 is located will be sold to them and that’s where the entertainment venue will be located,” said Sam Couvillon, Gainesville city councilmember. “When you factor the plans with Poultry Park, it will allow us also to create some space for parking and access.”
The dollar amount of the sale has not been finalized.
The city plans to move Engine 209 to a spot along the Midland Greenway and is accepting bids for vendors to handle relocation efforts. Couvillon estimated that it may be “months” before the train is moved.
Gainesville officials announced April 29 that they are in talks with B Entertainment, a Colorado Springs-based entertainment company, to bring the venue and a 9,000-square-foot Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse and Tavern with an accompanying outdoor patio to the corner of West Academy Street and Jesse Jewell Parkway by 2022. Representatives with B Entertainment said the expansion investment is in the neighborhood of $12 million.
According to a release published by B Entertainment, the Gainesville plans are a part of a Georgia-based expansion that also includes metro Atlanta.
“We are planning to build a campus that fully complements the historical architecture of the downtown square while also providing amenities only found in the world’s finest music and performance venues,” said B Entertainment Chairman and CEO JW Roth.
The city said it also plans to renovate historic Poultry Park across West Academy Street.
The venue could attract as many as 100 concerts a year, according to B Entertainment, and can be used as a wedding and corporate venue.
Local real estate businessman Frank Simpson also told The Times that one of the major reasons the city was selected for B Entertainment’s expansion was because of their attractiveness as an “on-the-go” destination between southern entertainment hubs such as Atlanta and Charlotte.
“They really want to maximize some of these big acts and tours and really use Gainesville’s proximity to the I-85 corridor and invite a big act to stop and perform in Gainesville,” he said.
During Thursday’s Gainesville City Council work session, local business leader Robert Mudd said that talent-booking agency AEG Entertainment could bring acts such as 1980s group Journey and country singer Easton Corbin to Gainesville.
Hoping to alleviate concerns of a crowded and rambunctious downtown area, if plans are approved, Mudd said that the venues will be “well-governed and have “good security.”
“We’re going to be great neighbors to the people that are already on the downtown square,” Mudd said to councilmembers.
B Entertainment representatives told the Times that the planned venues could mirror the Boot Barn Hall at Bourbon Brothers, located in Colorado Springs, which is a $15 million dollar campus that has become a hub for musical entertainment and additional venues.
The hope, through this proposed expansion, is that Gainesville could see similar traction as an asset for live entertainment and other events.
“It is going to be a venue that — in the way we expect to put this together — that is going to be an asset to the city,” Mudd said.
Le’Kea Wilson, a junior at the University of North Georgia, said that Gainesville could use another live event venue, especially for college students with “cabin fever” following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think the (downtown square) has its cool spots, but do we have a place that’s going to attract a big-name artist or a really cool event for our age range?” she said. “I think Gainesville needs places that are going to cater to a younger, more diverse crowd like Atlanta does.”
Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said B Entertainment’s planned expansion into Gainesville will “align seamlessly” with current mixed-used city developments.
The outgoing mayor noted the Solis Gainesville and Gainesville Renaissance projects, which are set to be completed by 2022, will be within walking distance to the music venue and restaurant.
“Just when we thought things couldn’t get any more exciting in downtown Gainesville, B Entertainment executives approached city leaders about this impressive project — one we’re convinced will attract residents and visitors from all over,” he said. “Gainesville’s already a well-known tourism hotspot, but I’m confident this partnership with B Entertainment will take the city to new heights in comparison with other destinations in Northeast Georgia.”
Robyn Lynch, Gainesville’s tourism director said the expansion not only increases Gainesville’s dining and entertainment sector but should be a major boon for the city post-pandemic.
“There’s no doubt Gainesville, Georgia, is the place to be, and we look forward to partnering with B Entertainment on the marketing of the venue for groups looking to host meetings and conferences,” she said.