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Institute of Government helps Gainesville improve downtown access, spur new growth

Gainesville_Spring Street after_rendering[1]

To get from Brenau University and the Northeast Georgia Medical Center to Gainesville’s business district means navigating across four bustling streets—a virtual traffic moat around downtown.

Few people willingly make the walk, which some say has hindered development in the area.

The trek will be easier—and safer—once a high-visibility crosswalk and landscaped median are installed. The crossing is part of a massive revitalization project designed to improve the connectivity between neighborhoods in downtown Gainesville. The project also calls for new mixed-use developments and additional commercial space.

“These projects put a focus on our downtown area,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “I think it’s going to have a huge impact. We’re excited and we’re moving forward.”

The project, “Creating Connectivity in Gainesville,” is a partnership forged by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, with funding from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities grant. The project evolved from a detailed strategic plan that the Vinson Institute developed for downtown Gainesville in 2015.

The project calls for mixed-use developments on two downtown lots, as well as commercial development alongside a recently installed park and greenway. The city is razing an old jail to make room for more private development. A renovated town square is ready for outdoor concerts and cultural events. And artists are planning murals to spruce up the sides of dull downtown buildings.

In addition to improving accessibility to downtown, the plan will make downtown more friendly to the environment. Landscaped medians will absorb and filter rainwater, which otherwise would run across asphalt and into city storm drains.

The activity has piqued the interest of private developers, which pleases Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey.

“The strategic plan and the Wells Fargo grant show people that we’re doing strategic public investment to spur private investment,” Lackey said.

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