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Road improvements increase pedestrian access to downtown Gainesville
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A new median with fresh landscaping at the intersection of E.E. Butler Parkway and Spring Street in Gainesville, on Friday, June 1, 2018. Several streetscape improvements are coming to medians and crosswalks at intersections along Jesse Jewell and E.E. Butler Parkways. - photo by David Barnes

Streetscape improvements and upgraded crosswalks on Jesse Jewell and EE Butler Parkways will now help pedestrians “cross the moat” into downtown Gainesville.

The project was largely funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities program. The city of Gainesville and the University of Georgia received $50,000, and the city contributed nearly $75,000 in matching funds and in-kind aid. Gainesville residents Brent and Paula Hoffman also pledged $5,000 for trees and plants to beautify the area.

The city, along with the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the input of community members, developed a strategic plan in 2015 to improve the downtown Gainesville area. A focus of the plan was connectivity. The roads around downtown Gainesville, including EE Butler Parkway, Academy Street, West Academy Street and Jesse Jewell Parkway, are referred to in the report as “the moat” because they separate downtown from the surrounding neighborhoods.

The first phase of the project, the addition of new long-lasting thermoplastic crosswalks, was completed last year, Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said at an event celebrating the project on Friday. A new median was added on EE Butler Parkway near Spring Street, and other medians were landscaped. A new crosswalk will be added at Jesse Jewell Parkway and Main Street after construction there ends, Lackey said.

Lackey said the landscaped medians make crossing the street safer for pedestrians.

“If they get stuck going halfway, they have a safe landing area to stop and wait for the traffic to settle down,” he said.

Leigh Elkins, senior public service associate for the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA, said the medians also help with runoff and water quality.

“Not only are they medians that beautify the community, but they also provide important green space and reduce and eliminate impervious surfaces which can then help with water quality...When you provide spaces for that water to percolate through the soil, it helps clean it and you’re returning it to the source in a better condition,” Elkins said.

Nate Collett, regional banking district manager for Wells Fargo, said the grant program looks for projects that help the environment and local communities.

“We look for projects like this where we can advance a sustainable environment,” he said.

Brent Hoffman, who along with his wife Paula donated to the project, said the additions make it easier for pedestrians, especially students at Brenau University, to access downtown Gainesville.

“This is just our kind of project that we like to contribute to—beautification and things that are good for the environment…Now there is a connection that is important to this community,” he said.

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