Update, June 7: A five-year update of Gainesville’s comprehensive plan, a blueprint for how the city could develop, was approved by Gainesville City Council Tuesday, June 7.
Rundown areas of Gainesville such as Lakeshore Mall and the strip of Jesse Jewell Parkway near the Budgetel motel could get a facelift over the next five years.
Residents and other stakeholders have had opportunities to comment on the city’s latest comprehensive plan update over the past six months, and Gainesville City Council heard the latest draft Tuesday, March 15, which will help guide development over the next five years.
Redeveloping Lakeshore Mall has been a priority for residents since the 2012 comprehensive plan update, Sinyard said, and the new plan involves shifting the mall into a mixed-use town center with potential for townhomes, multi-family residences, new commercial buildings and greenway connectivity with Longwood Park. The plan would emphasize commercial buildings pushed closer to Pearl Nix Parkway and Highway 53 with parking in the rear. The area could also fit a pair of 1.4-acre park areas.
“This was the top area cited by all our stakeholders as the area that they felt needed a lot of attention,” Sinyard said.
It could include 404 residential units split between multi-family and townhomes with more than 330,000 additional square feet of commercial space.
A design of one of the parks from TSW shows a public square with open-air seating, wide walkways and landscaped areas.
The redevelopment plan would also provide a gateway into Gainesville High School by removing buildings in the northeast corner of the area in favor of a stormwater retention pond.
The design for the Budgetel motel area would include several residential options, including denser development that could provide for more affordable housing.
“This was probably one area that had a lot of parcels that are ripe for redevelopment based on land values,” Sinyard said. “We made a plan that would create some higher intensity land uses and some quality development, really trying to create a good mix of residential and commercial.”
The plan shows a park with potential connection to Alta Vista Cemetery, a townhome community near the hotel, space for multi-family units and some additional commercial space.
The plan shows a 2.9-acre park that could abut townhomes and come with playground areas or other options for families.
It would include 205 residential units split between multi-family, townhomes and single-family homes, plus 139,300 square feet of commercial space and a 180-room hotel. The commercial area shown could include a grocery store for nearby residents. The plan recommends setting aside some housing in the area to rent below market-rates.
Some greenspace near the park could be used for farmer’s markets.
“We like this idea of having a community market not only for those who live there but others in the city as well,” Sinyard said.
Planners also see an opportunity to revitalize the Gainesville Mill with greater connectivity to the Midland Greenway, more single-family housing options, commercial buildings and some light industrial uses.
“We feel like there’s a lot of good opportunities to create some … sources of naturally occurring affordable housing for people,” Sinyard said.
Mills like the one in Gainesville have been used elsewhere as the centerpiece of revitalized areas, such as Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Sinyard said, and the mill itself could become a mixed-use development with 443,000 square feet of space.
The plan shows 196 residential units split between multi-family, townhomes and single-family homes. The plan states that much of the mill village area is in unincorporated Hall County, but the city has shown interest in annexing the neighborhood.
But these redevelopment plans won’t happen without buy-in from private developers.
“Sometimes private investors need to see a vision and need to see what’s possible to serve the areas to motivate them to move into Gainesville or redevelop ,” Councilwoman July Clay said.
Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Brooks said she was happy with the layouts for Lakeshore Mall and the Budgetel area.
“It’s a long-term goal, we’ll just have to see who’s willing to invest their money,” Brooks said.
The comprehensive plan update will next be sent to the Georgia Mountain Regional Commission and Department of Community Affairs for further review, and the final report is expected to be sent back to the council for adoption on June 21. City Council members unanimously approved the draft Tuesday with Mayor Sam Couvillon absent.