Gainesville officials are looking to the Park Hill corridor as the next focus for revitalization efforts, and after seeking public input, the city has presented a plan that calls for some improvements such as better pedestrian access, streetscaping, more park space and the repurposing of existing properties in the area.
The study, which began last year, looked at an approximately 2.5-mile stretch between the Gainesville Civic Center and Gainesville’s Atlanta Botanical Garden. It included input from interviews, a community survey and a 14-member steering committee.
The southern portion of the area, which runs from the Civic Center to Enota Drive, “has really always been about community,” said Leigh Askew Elkins of the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia, which worked with the city on the project.
“There are civic spaces. There are public spaces. There are spaces for commerce,” Elkins said.
Traffic and pedestrian movement were some of the most common concerns found in the study, Elkins said, giving the intersection of Riverside Drive and Park Hill Drive near Green’s Grocery as an example of an intersection that had drawn concern.
About half of survey respondents listed traffic congestion as their main concern for the area between the Civic Center and Enota. The majority of respondents also said they thought sidewalks should be extended from Enota along Park Hill Drive and Morningside Drive toward City Park.
For the south side of the Park Hill corridor, some ideas in the plan include adding a crosswalk across Oak Tree Drive and across Riverside Drive, in front of Inn Between Deli. Other suggestions are reducing curb cuts at businesses on Riverside Drive, adding a trailhead at the former Green Street pool site and promoting new restaurants and filling vacant spaces in the area.
Another proposal is a “road diet” on Riverside Drive, which would narrow the middle turn lane from 14 feet to 10 feet, leaving extra space for landscaping and sidewalks without having to acquire additional land.
The northern portion of the corridor, which runs from Enota Drive to the botanical gardens, has several popular restaurants, as well as some under-utilized parking lots and empty shopping centers, Elkins said. While there is some public transportation in the area, improvements could still be made, she said.
A survey about the northern side of the corridor found that the top request was improved transportation, which 18% of people said they wanted. Other top requests included parks and outdoor space, grocery stores and a health center.
Some ideas for the north end included in the plan are adding a crosswalk on Park Hill Drive, increasing hours of operation for public transit, and minimizing curb cuts along Park Hill. The plan also includes some proposals for the Northlake Plaza shopping center, which houses the Family Dollar on Cleveland Highway. Excess land there could be used for greenspace or recreational opportunities.
Park Hill Drive and Cleveland Highway could also get extra landscaping along the side of the road by narrowing some portions of the road.
The city has also been notified that the Georgia Department of Transportation has approved a pedestrian crosswalk on Park Hill Drive near Bluefin and Fastlane Laundry, Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said Thursday. Sheppard said the city had been communicating with the state for about a year about the crosswalk.
“If you drive this corridor, you see people crossing there a lot,” Sheppard said. “They’re crossing with their laundry baskets. They’re crossing with baby strollers. … It’s great to have a unified location that people can cross and have that little island for safety.”
The presentation is available as part of the agenda packet for Thursday’s City Council work session.