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New Gainesville parking deck could add retail space, outdoor plaza
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A portion of the North Parking Deck in downtown Gainesville stands Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, as construction continues at the site. - photo by Scott Rogers

Downtown Gainesville’s new North Parking Deck may add additional space for retail and restaurants. 

The city is seeking proposals to develop property adjacent to the planned parking deck at 130 Main St. NW, which would include 6,500 square feet of retail space to be built at Brenau Avenue and attached to the parking deck, according to a request for proposal from the city advertised on Sept. 8. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 6. 

“The retail space has not been fully designed, nor is it presently scheduled to be constructed,” the request states.

The design for the parking deck, which started construction in April,  has accommodations already for a retail concept, including flexible space on the ground and second floor that could be used for storage, kitchen space or restrooms, the request states. The retail space would have employee and delivery access inside the deck, and the public would access the space from the plaza, formerly known as Brenau Avenue between Bradford Street and Main Street. 

Kevin Hutcheson, the city’s budget and purchasing manager, said the city aims to “activate” the northern end of downtown with this additional retail space. 

“Although we initially anticipated this retail addition a few years in the future, the City is now considering having retail space adjoined to the new parking deck, within the footprint of the former Brenau Avenue,” Hutcheson wrote in an email. “The retail space would be built-out into the plaza, while still maintaining the features of a Highlands to Islands trail connection and landscaping.”

The Highlands to Islands trail system is a proposed 35-mile multi-use pathway that will ultimately connect the Gainesville Square and Rock Greenway to the multi-use paths along Friendship Road and Lanier Islands Parkway near Flowery Branch.

The retail concept was included with the initial design of the deck, Hutcheson wrote, but the timing had not yet been determined. 

If the city does not receive a proposal that is favorable, then it will complete the deck under the current contract with Carroll Daniel Construction, Hutcheson wrote. “We do not anticipate this impacting the construction timeline for the deck,” he wrote. 

Library Director Lisa McKinney said the parking deck will allow the Gainesville library branch to put on bigger events that more people can easily attend, and the potential plaza could give them outdoor space to use as well. 

“That was one of the things we very casually discussed is having the ability to do an outdoor storytime or something here and there,” McKinney said. “We know it’s going to change our lives here for the better when we have unlimited parking, pretty much, available. We’ll be able to do things in this building on a whole different scale.”

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Renovations continue on Bradford Street in downtown Gainesville Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. - photo by Scott Rogers