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Olive Garden to open in June
Project spurs other retail talk
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It's official — Olive Garden is coming to Gainesville.

It's one of two restaurants being built at the intersection of Dawsonville Highway and Beechwood Boulevard and will open in June, a company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

"I think it's a very good thing, especially in these times," Gainesville City Councilman Danny Dunagan said. "I believe the citizens of Gainesville have been wanting an Olive Garden for years, and I'm sure there will be a lot of people who are very excited about this."

Tim Evans, director of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said the chain has been on the restaurant wish list for Gainesville residents every time a poll is taken.

He also said the location is ideal and will attract people from North Hall and Forsyth County.

And the jobs it will bring to town are perfect for the area's high school and college students, he said.

"We'll gain on the benefit of the jobs, on the benefit of the property tax revenue and on the sales tax, which goes toward education and infrastructure projects," Evans said. "It's a win-win-win."

A sign announcing the new restaurant was up on the property Thursday morning.

Olive Garden, founded in 1982, is owned by Darden Restaurants, the largest casual dining restaurant company in the world, according to Olive Garden's website. Darden also owns two other Gainesville restaurants, Red Lobster and Longhorn.

The closest Olive Garden locations to Gainesville are in Buford, Duluth and Athens.

Tim Knight, co-owner of Trivest Real Estate, an Atlanta-based company that is acting as the development consultants for the owner of the Beechwood Boulevard property, said it will be at least three to four weeks before the other restaurant is announced.

The construction has been significantly stalled because of inclement weather, with crews losing 33 work days since Thanksgiving, he said.

"The weather has just killed us," he said. "We basically got nothing done on the site in the last month."

The 11-acre site is the former home of the Lakeshore Heights nursing home. Construction on the two restaurants began in October.

Knight said the company is still deciding what to do with the remaining 6 acres, but the space will most likely be filled with a big-box store or a small shopping center.

"Nothing is definite at this point," he said. "But that's kind of our marketing focus, hopefully more free-standing retail back there that is not currently in the market."

Evans said this project is already spurring talk of other retail development down the street and across from the location.

 

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