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Main Street's midtown side sporting new street lights
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A road improvement project on Main Street sits almost completed on Monday. The city of Gainesville has installed new lighting and paved the road in the $400,000 project. - photo by Nick Bowman

The new decorative street lights on Main Street in Gainesville not only are up, but they flickered on during Monday’s solar eclipse.

“That looked pretty good,” said Barry McNicholas, group manager for Slack Auto Parts, which has a store at the corner of Main and Jesse Jewell Parkway.

More work lies ahead as Gainesville continues to dress up Main Street south of Jesse Jewell as part of a $400,000 streetscape project.

Road striping and installation of benches and trash receptacles are projected to be completed within the next 30 days, City Manager Bryan Lackey said.

“The final landscaping may extend into late September depending how long the summer heat hangs on,” he said.

The streetscape project, also involving new and wider sidewalks, runs to College Avenue and near where the old Hall County jail once stood.

Earlier this year, Main Street in that area was closed to motorists for a couple of months as workers replaced 100-year-old cast-iron water lines.

The work was done to enable the streetscape project to take place at the least inconvenience to residents, Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said earlier.

McNicholas said the water line work affected Slack’s retail business, but “we were still able to work out of the back door for our commercial deliveries.

“But (the project) was for the good of the community … and in the end, it’s nice-looking improvements, for sure.”

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Cars roll over an improved Main Street on Monday. The city of Gainesville has installed new lighting and paved the road in the $400,000 project. - photo by Nick Bowman

Jessica Tullar, the city’s special projects manager, has said the improvements are part of a plan to connect the Main Street area to the existing Midtown Greenway on Parker Street “and to give a visual connection to the pedestrian bridge.”

The pedestrian bridge spanning Jesse Jewell links the downtown and midtown areas.

Gainesville is seeking planning money from the state to study how best to connect the Midtown Greenway to Highlands to Islands — a Hall County trails systems now separated by a major four-lane road, Queen City Parkway/Ga. 60.

The Main Street project and greenway connection are part of a larger effort to reinvigorate that area of town — one that also includes tearing down the old Hall County jail off Main and Parker.

Tristar of America — the Norcross contractor awarded a $377,000 contract to do the work — began the project on the 4-acre site in the spring.

The jail is gone, but the entire project around the fenced-off area is expected to be completed by September.

“That is still the anticipated completion time frame,” Lackey said last week.

City staff “will be meeting over the next few weeks to develop information for potential developers,” he added.

The jail demolition could be a major starting point in the area’s redevelopment.

“We have a blank canvas, a whole block in that midtown area, for us to start marketing for a public-private partnership,” Lackey has said. “Then, we could put that back on the tax rolls as some kind of mixed-use development.”

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