Gainesville’s square is getting a Mexican cantina, a French bakery, an ice cream and dessert shop, a smoothie joint and more on the ground floor of the new Parkside on the Square development.
Most of the storefront and restaurant spaces have committed tenants as project managers get closer to their late-May construction launch of the building, according to developer Tim Knight.
All told, downtown Gainesville is about to see $52 million in construction spanning three projects that begin this spring. When it’s finished, local residents could see a town come into its own as a full-blown Southern destination for young and old looking for dining options, jobs and a new way of life.
It starts in March, when Brian Daniel is aiming to start moving earth for the 12-month buildout of his new headquarters.
While Carroll Daniel Construction is taking the top three floors of its new building, the first floor will be open to renters.
“The first floor is flex space,” Daniel said in February. “It could be several things: It could be office space, it could be retail, it could potentially be a restaurant space. We’ll just see where the interest is.”
In April, the Parkside luxury condominium building will start rising off the square.
The first floor of the Parkside building will be filled almost entirely by restaurants.
While it’s still too soon to name names, Knight said he has commitments for about 65 percent of the 15,000 available square feet of space in Parkside. Here’s the breakdown of what’s coming to the square:
- Mexican cantina: 5,000 square feet
- Smoothie and sandwich shop: 1,400 square feet
- Dessert and ice cream shop: 1,300 square feet
- French bakery: 2,000 square feet
Two more spaces have yet to be locked down, one 1,200 square feet and the other a 4,000-square-foot restaurant space, according to Knight.
Some of the new restaurants coming to the square will be national names with local franchise owners. The largest restaurant owner coming to the Parkside building has about 20 other businesses in Georgia. Others are local to Gainesville or Atlanta, but more information about who’s behind the new restaurants will come out as plans solidify.
There are a few details to already get excited about: Knight said the Mexican restaurant owners plan to build a pocket park and garage-door windows that can be opened on fair-weather days. The French bakery will be owned by a local entrepreneur and modeled on a successful New York City bakery. The ice cream shop will sell ice cream — the top demand in the market research done by Knight.
While six new restaurants and retailers on the square will shake up business in the area — news of the Parkside development is already prodding existing businesses to make changes and investments — and bring more people downtown, the more consequential change with the project could be in the four stories of condominiums stacked above them.
“We think it’ll transform downtown, primarily because you’ll have bodies there 24 hours a day,” Knight said during a February interview at a coffee shop, plans for the site stacked on the table in front of him. “It’s already a vibrant square, but it can get quiet at night and on the weekends. This will make it vibrant for longer (periods) of the day.”
Downtown Gainesville has no shortage of restaurants and retailers, but it’s long been short on living space within “the moat” — the asphalt fence around downtown formed by Academy Street, Jesse Jewell Parkway and E.E. Butler Parkway.
Between the high-dollar condos on the square and the approximately 200 rental apartments planned for the Greater South lot that currently holds Gainesville’s trains and was the site of the old Cooper Pants Factory, the downtown area is about to have an anchor of customers.
But at a half-million dollars for condos and market rates for downtown apartments, who’s interested? Why not buy a lot on the lake or snag a rental house in the county?
“You have really three primary demographic groups in this country. You have millennials, which are the largest demographic, you have Gen Xers, which are the smallest, and you have the baby boomers, which used to be the biggest,” Knight said. “The two groups on the ends want this lifestyle. They’re tired of driving — they don’t want the big house anymore.”
The developer has handled projects all over metro Atlanta and the Southeast, and whether it’s the Atlanta Beltline or the Big Creek Greenway in Forsyth or even strangely named Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, South Carolina, people more and more want to park their car and leave it behind.
“If you go into Atlanta and look, this lifestyle is everywhere,” Knight said. “It’s Decatur, it’s Midtown, it’s Candler Park, it’s Inman Park, the Old Fourth Ward, it’s the West Side.
And soon it’ll be Gainesville. He pointed out Walk Score, an online measuring system for how walkable an area is using Google map data and relevant points like shops, restaurants, schools and hospitals.
“Anything above a 60 is really walkable. Downtown Alpharetta is a 65. Parts of Buckhead, some go to 60 and some go to 70. This is an 80,” Knight said, tapping his finger on the Parkside plans. “This compares to Old Fourth Ward, Ponce City Market, in terms of the walk score.”
As a result, Knight’s betting that empty nesters, professionals and young people will get in on the ground floor of growing downtown Gainesville. And as his projects come online, or even as news of them spread around the region, Knight expects to see some of the vacant locations around the square start filling up.
“We have a saying in my industry: Food begets food, and it really does,” Knight said. “The more restaurants that are successful, the more restaurants that are going to come in.”
Eight months behind the Parkside building is Knight’s second project, the apartment building at the Greater South lot, which will have 30,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space for rent.
When construction is finished in summer 2019 of the Parkside building, the Gainesville square will be a better place to be, Knight said.
“Other restaurants are going to figure that out, and they’re going to come to the market,” he said. “We think it’ll really kick-start a renovation of the square.”