Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan highlighted economic development, public safety and transportation improvements in his annual State of the City address on Tuesday.
The “local economy … is very strong,” he said.
In the last year, commercial development has continued to tick up across the city, with 17 new and expanded firms announcing a total of 690 new jobs and more than $136 million in new capital investment in Gainesville.
“2017 will be remembered as another year of record development activity in Gainesville,” Dunagan said.
The Gainesville Community Development Department issued more than 2,500 building permits, and residential construction continued at a record annual pace, with 412 new home permits issued.
Major new multifamily housing projects include the redeveloped public housing complex on Atlanta Street into a mixed-income property known as Walton Summit.
“The addition of downtown housing, new retail, restaurants and two additional levels on the Gainesville parking deck will enhance an already successful downtown,” Dunagan said. “We are looking for ways to minimize the impact these projects will have on parking and partnering with other utility companies to replace aging infrastructure on several downtown streets.”
The city has done its own investing, as well, with $66 million in infrastructure projects planned through the 2022 fiscal year, including streetscaping, relocating fire station No. 2, water quality improvements and transportation projects.
Moreover, “at the end of this year we will complete a $9 million dollar water quality building at Riverside Water Treatment Plant,” Dunagan said. “Since one of our main goals is to protect Lake Lanier, we will begin construction soon on replacing the outlet where the Linwood Water Reclamation Facility discharges water into the lake to ensure water quality.”
The Gainesville metro area has lowest unemployment rate of any in Georgia. And recently, Dunagan noted, the Milken Institute named Gainesville-Hall County No. 3 in the nation in its Best Performing Small Cities index.
Meanwhile, Dunagan spotlighted public safety improvements with automobile crashes down 3 percent citywide last year as law enforcement focused on the Dawsonville Highway corridor.
Persons and property crimes were down one percent, as the police department responded to about 70,000 calls for service. And the fire department responded to about 8,500 calls last year.
Relieving traffic congestion has been a major focus of city leaders as growth continues and transportation projects come to the fore.
“I am pleased to report we are doing more than ever to manage traffic in Gainesville,” Dunagan said.
This includes the launch of the Intelligent Transportation System, which allows traffic signals to be visually monitored and controlled from a remote location.
“This system has been successfully implemented along Dawsonville Highway and allowed for much improved transportation management during the peak holiday shopping periods,” Dunagan said.
Studies to improve traffic flow along other main arteries, such as Green Street, were completed last year, and city officials are reviewing proposals to add roundabouts at several locations.
In closing, Dunagan thanked the 792 employees “who keep the water running, the garbage picked up and the streets safe.”
“There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t get a phone call or an email about how our employees go above and beyond,” Dunagan added. “I am truly grateful to be here with each of you tonight and be able to recognize so many wonderful people who make me proud to call Gainesville my home.”