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Plan would alter Gainesville's downtown streetscape
Design of square would 'spring out'
Gainesville officials are looking at reducing Washington Street to one lane near Bradford Street to expand the sidewalk.

Plans were introduced for an expansion of Gainesville’s downtown streetscape, this time spreading off the square.

At the Gainesville City Council’s work retreat Friday, the traffic engineering department introduced the council to the newest downtown overhaul project.

The plan includes narrowing Washington Street, between Green and Bradford streets, to one lane, while extending the sidewalk to make more room for pedestrians and shop owners.

“You have these other areas that are connected to the square, but not connected in a way that we want them to be, which is the more pedestrian-friendly way,” said Catiel Felts, tourism director for the city, adding that restaurant owners have voiced an interest in an enhanced outdoor atmosphere.

“One of the things we’ve heard from the restaurant owners downtown ... is they want to expand their outdoor seating,” Felts said.

The proposal also includes the beautification of the sidewalk on Green Street, as well as on Bradford Street.

The project, however, has not been approved, nor has it gotten past the design stages.

“Basically, the staff met up and was looking (to) improve and expand the existing streetscape that we’ve done in the past and then sort of carry that design, if you will, out further — basically spring it out from the square,” said Dee Taylor, Gainesville’s traffic engineer.

“It’s one of those: let’s pitch it out there and see what kind of ideas we get back and kind of baby-step along. These are big projects ... there’s all sorts of unknowns, more than a two-dimensional drawing can give you.”

The council saw the plans for the first time Friday. The project has no estimated cost, nor has funding been allocated.

In fact, Taylor said, the project could end up changing completely.

Right now, designers have narrowed Washington Street to one lane of traffic and extended the sidewalk on both Washington and Bradford. Lights and trees have been planned to mirror those of the square.

“Some of those ideas may not fly,” Taylor said.

“Sometimes the artist’s rendering and what you end up with are completely different. Everything’s driven by money.”

He said unknowns like underground utilities and federal requirements could change the original design.

No timeline has been set for the project; Felts said it could come to fruition in two years or 10.

But, she said, the project is likely to become a reality.

“A number of years ago when someone mentioned tearing down the old police station and fire department and build(ing) the new public safety complex, everyone was like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,’” Felts said.

“Same thing with the bridge. Those are the kinds of projects that we have to start somewhere.”

And, she said, it’s this kind of project that has been on her “wish list” for some time.

“Our downtown is doing great and we think it can do even better,” Felts said. “It’s just a part of the plan, if you will.”

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