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How downtown businesses are weathering construction impacts
Carroll Daniel paying it workers’ lunch tabs to help affected restaurants
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Employees of Carroll Daniel Construction eat at the Collegiate Grill on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. Carroll Daniel Construction is paying for its employees to eat on the square on Thursdays during the construction taking place downtown. - photo by Austin Steele

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, unless you’re a Carroll Daniel employee on Thursdays.

The Gainesville-based contractor that’s turned much of downtown Gainesville into a construction zone is paying for employees to eat at restaurants on the square that may be ill-affected by the work.

The gesture will take place while the parking deck expansion has much of Main Street closed — or likely until the end of November.

“We’re all about supporting local business,” spokeswoman Angie Kennedy said. “(The free lunches) have been great. Every employee takes up that offer.”

Among the workers taking advantage are division manager Trent Brown and construction superintendent Jim Mantione, who stopped in at The Collegiate Grill at 220 Main St. SW last Thursday.

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Diners at Avocados sit at sidewalk tables Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in downtown Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

“We come here a lot,” Mantione said. “And we go to (Sweet) Magnolia’s a lot, and we go to Atlas Pizza, even when Carroll Daniel’s not footing the bill. We got great choices here.”

The free lunches are “just indicative of the company we work for,” said Mantione, who is overseeing work at Carroll Daniel’s downtown office building and the parking deck.

“They’re good people and concerned about the community. We know everybody is impacted (by the construction), but in the long run, it’s going to be a lot nicer and a lot better for everyone.”

Collegiate owner Jeff Worley said he also appreciates the gesture and that he has posted his thanks to Carroll Daniel on Facebook.

His restaurant off Main has been particularly affected by the construction, with the street closed starting at his front door.

“We’re taking a beating,” he said in an earlier interview. “It has had a tremendous impact on our volume.”

In response, the restaurant has adjusted its hours during construction so that it is now open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

To draw more customers, the Collegiate has offered a 10 percent discount to employees at neighboring Hunt Tower office building.

But that’s the extent of offers, Worley said, as “it’s hard to hang on.”

Craft beer business Downtown Drafts at 115 Bradford St. S.E. is giving Collegiate customers a break during construction.

“We’re running a promotion where if someone brings in their receipt from The Collegiate on the same day, they can get a dollar off a beer or flight,” co-owner Aimee Hoecker said.

“It’s something small to do our part and try to help a Gainesville institution stay in business.”

Downtown Drafts also is offering happy hour specials every day.

“We’re just asking our customers to have patience with the parking situation and support downtown businesses whenever they can,” Hoecker said.

“It’s great to see the downtown businesses working together to weather the construction,” said Nikki Perry, Gainesville’s communications and tourism director.

In addition to the 410-space Main Street parking deck growing by 180 spaces, downtown’s makeover also includes construction of a four-story, $12 million building, anchored by Carroll Daniel’s new headquarters, at Main and Jesse Jewell Parkway.

The building, slated to be finished in June, also will be open for retail, restaurant and office space.

Both projects are going well, Mantione said.

“We’ve had some good weather and some good crews out there,” he said. “We’re right on schedule.”

Also planned downtown is Parkside on the Square off Spring Street, facing the square. The mixed-use building’s retail-focused ground floor is filling up with tenants. La Parrilla restaurant, Tropical Smoothie Cafe and a Kilwin’s confectionery shop have been announced so far.

As for the four residential floors above the retail portion, Parkside will feature 32 condominiums, with pre-construction prices ranging from $440,900 to $599,900 for the prime penthouses, according to Parkside’s website.

Developer Tim Knight has said he’s close to reaching 16 units, the required number for bank financing.

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Construction crews are lifted to the top of the downtown Gainesville parking deck Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, as they begin to add 180 new spaces and multiple levels. The city will be operating a free shuttle Monday through Friday between Sept. 24 and Nov. 30 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. so people can park in other lots and get a ride into the square. - photo by Scott Rogers
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