This year’s top stories are, of course, the three P’s: pandemic, politics and protests.
Not surprisingly, the stories that got the most clicks from readers on gainesvilletimes.com in 2020 were every angle on COVID-19 from the first cases in Hall County to the impact on businesses and schools to the record numbers in the hospital.
Rather than rehash the year of tragedy and division, though, we’re bringing you the top 10 stories you may have missed in 2020 — and at least a few that might even make you smile.
These stories were popular with readers and especially our subscribers.
This iconic pink building that has been a thorn in the side of some city officials for years was demolished late this year. City leaders had repeatedly tabled a vote on using eminent domain to take the property before the building’s owner, Rick Gailey, moved forward with other plans. Gailey said a restaurant will go in its place. Gailey told us he did not "want to divulge any names yet," but it was not a chain restaurant and would serve made-to-order burgers and wings along with craft beer and offer outdoor seating.
The main thoroughfare in Gainesville has long needed improvements. Some specific plans had been announced in previous years but then been dead in the water. This year, improvements were put back on track. Don’t expect changes any time soon, though. Road construction is a long process, and officials are looking for some changes to be in place by 2025.
There’s been a lot of news coming out of the hospital this year, but this was a major announcement that might have gotten lost in the COVID-19 deluge. The plans include a parking deck, a helipad and an expanded emergency department, which would go next to the existing north patient tower as early as 2024. We’ll be bringing you more details about these plans in the new year, so stay tuned.
The land has since sold and dirt is moving on this mixed-use project that is one of several coming to downtown Gainesville. The plans were first announced in September 2019, and the Gainesville City Council approved the sale of the land to Terwilliger Pappas for $5 million. The city purchased the lot from another developer in 2018 for $10 million after that developer’s plans for the property never came to fruition. Look for more coverage on this and other downtown projects in the new year.
The downtown library branch got a significant renovation this year and opened in September. The renovated library features floor-to-ceiling windows with views of downtown Gainesville, a dedicated story time room, a space for genealogy and local history research and study rooms. The children’s section has been moved to the back of the library, farther from the front doors, and the spiral staircase remains in its central location. The renovations of the 1970s-era building involved heavy demolition, including the removal of exterior walls and gutting of the interior space.
If you didn’t see a Joro spider this fall, you weren’t looking. The invasive species has continued to spread since hopping a ship to Georgia a few years ago. A University of North Georgia team is studying the spiders, and we teamed up with them to plot the spiders’ locations in North Georgia.
Here’s a glimpse at Lanier Islands’ plans for a $155 million hotel and convention center in South Hall
PineIsle, a once 254-room hotel, was demolished in April 2008 and the lot has remained vacant since then. Discussion about the property’s renewal began in 2012, and work could begin at the site in the next month or so, Missy Burgess, Lanier Islands’ director of public relations and marketing, told us Tuesday.
Schools have drastically changed how they operate this year, but before all that, Hall made plans to build new schools while reducing the overall number. A bond referendum and Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax passed this year to bring the plans to fruition. Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said the system decided to construct four new buildings to replace seven schools: McEver Arts Academy, Myers Elementary, Oakwood Elementary, Riverbend Elementary, White Sulphur Elementary, Tadmore Elementary and World Language Academy Primary. That means three schools would close as students merge into fewer but newer and larger buildings.
A Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders and a Rosati’s restaurant are among the tenants that will be part of a new, two-building development at the site north of Friendship Springs Boulevard. That announcement was made in September, and the project was set to be completed in 2021.
Spoiler, they were. A Gainesville family won $99,000 earlier this year on the season finale of “Don’t,” an ABC game show. The game show series featured the Williams family — siblings Graham, Nathan, Leita and Reagan — attempting a series of challenges. All four graduated from Gainesville High School. Contestants on the show strive as a team to complete "various challenges, such as ‘Don't Blink,’ ‘Don't Look Back’ and ‘Don't Play Ball in the House,’ as they work together to build their bank,” according to the show’s website. Fail, and they don’t earn money; whatever money is left in their bank at the end is theirs to keep. There are, of course, other twists along the way.