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Some Newtown residents unsure about new park
Gainesville plans include pocket green space area in Fair Street neighborhood
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Enough green space already, some Fair Street neighborhood residents seemed to say about Gainesville’s plan to add a small pocket park to the area.

Newtown in southeastern Gainesville is one area the city’s Community Development Department has targeted for improvements such as house rehabilitation, sidewalk repair and increasing green space. There’s a grand scheme for the neighborhood overall, but this is just one idea staff devised to make the area more attractive and address some housing conditions, said Jessica Tullar, department special projects manager.

“If we can gain support from property owners, we could conceivably build a pocket park,” she said.

The neighborhood is an older part of the city, with many of the homes built around 1936 or later.

The park would be small, about an acre or less, and have trees, grass and some benches, although the concept has little developed detail at this point. Much of the plan depends on some houses the city would like to buy in the area a couple blocks from Desota Street, where the headquarters of the Newtown Florist Club, an environmental activism organization, is located.

“It could provide some buffering, some open space, remove eyesores,” Community Development Director Rusty Ligon said. “One of the things we love to talk about accomplishing multiple goals by doing one project.”

Several residents pointed to the Desota Street park and basketball courts when asked their opinion on adding a small, passive park nearby. After acknowledging that park, most of the residents interviewed liked the idea, but weren’t overly excited about it, including resident William Butts.

“I don’t know if (nearby residents) need another one,” Butts said. “They have a little nice one down there (on Desota Street). It would give kids somewhere to go and play.”

Newtown resident Carolyn Jones said the community didn’t need one.

“It wouldn’t hurt,” Jones said. “But it wouldn’t work because one park is enough. That would be a waste of money.”

Gainesville would use Community Development Block Grant funding, which is awarded from the Department of Community Affairs to help communities redevelop neglected or deteriorating neighborhoods in low-income areas.

The grant money would also pay to buy the properties and demolish them. The properties the city is eyeing have some building code violations, officials said.

“We’re still waiting to approach at least one of the remaining two property owners that has not yet been contacted,” Tullar said.

Brandy Murrell, who said she recently moved to the neighborhood, was the most supportive of the idea and said it would really benefit the older folks who live in the area. She’d like the park to have a pavilion, a place where families can sit and eat together.

“(Older people) could go and just sit,” she said. “You can’t go down (to the other park to do that) because there’s a lot of little kids down there all the time.”

The city has also repaired sidewalks recently on several streets in the area, including on Harvey, Desota and Athens streets. Gainesville officials say they have some more future plans for the Fair Street area.

“We’ve got some big issues to address, and they’re not easy issues, but we know that we have to make this consistent effort,” Ligon said. “We have to make progress daily, weekly, monthly.”

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