Strolling a street with ripped-up sidewalks and a sprawling new building coming out of the ground, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock got a glance Wednesday at the one big construction zone known as downtown Gainesville.
“I think in this moment, when we’re talking about the American Rescue Plan with this focus on infrastructure, these are just the kinds of projects that represent a creative partnership between public and private,” he told The Times during the May 5 tour. “And I want to do everything I can to help facilitate growth.”
The Democratic senator added, “America needs a home improvement project, and I think each of us has a role to play. It’s great to see this kind of work in the city of Gainesville.”
Warnock got a good look at the outside of Gainesville Renaissance, a four-story retail/housing project with a floor for the Brenau University School of Psychiatry and Adolescent Counseling.
Touring mostly with city of Gainesville officials, he spoke to construction officials about the $22.4 million Renaissance project, viewing plans of the building off Spring Street. The building on what is known as “the fourth side of the square” is set for a July completion.
Renaissance is a private project with public ties. It 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 has said the city’s downtown master plan identifies the Renaissance lot as “the epicenter for redevelopment in the city of Gainesville.”
During the visit, Lackey spoke to Warnock about the city’s streetscaping efforts.
Gainesville has embarked on a $2.9 million effort to spruce up and beautify portions of Bradford, Washington, Green and Spring streets near the square. The project will mean new trees, decorative street lights, and benches and brick accents along sidewalks in some areas.
Warnock’s visit wasn’t all business.
A few people sitting at a table outside Downtown Drafts off Bradford Street noticed the senator, with one of them shouting, “Hey, I voted for you!”
As Warnock waved to the crowd, one person in the crowd asked for a selfie with the senator. He agreed, walking over to the table. He spent a few minutes chatting with the group, taking pictures and exchanging fist bumps.
“It’s great to be here in Gainesville,” Warnock said.
Earlier in the day, before arriving in Gainesville, he visited Kubota Manufacturing of America facilities off Ga. 365 in northeast Hall County and the SK Battery plant in Commerce.