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Downtown Gainesville to get $53M makeover
Three mixed-use developments to contain retail, restaurants, housing, offices
Gainesville downtown pic 1
A rendering shows planned retail and apartment development for a vacant lot on Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Allen Buck is optimistic about the future.

The 33-year-old Gainesville resident stopped Wednesday to contemplate an empty city-owned parking lot fronting Jesse Jewell Parkway between West Academy and Maple streets - site of a $25 million multi-story complex that will bring approximately 150 market-rate apartments, restaurant and retail space in late 2019.

The project is the most expensive of three mixed-use developments totaling $5 million announced Tuesday night by city officials. The venture is being called a public-private partnership between Gainesville, Carroll Daniel Construction and Knight Commercial Real Estate LLC.

Looking at the empty parking lot on his way to work, Buck sees the proposed development as a positive for the city.

"It may benefit me, if I can afford it," said the aspiring restaurant manager. "I'd be able to walk to work."

Veteran developer Tim Knight is banking on the "pedestrian friendly" nature of his project to attract millennials and young professionals who see the advantages of having just about everything they need within a five-minute walk.

"We feel that's very important to have a pedestrian-based development and a pedestrian-based downtown said Knight, who heads the Atlanta-based commercial real estate firm that also does business in Florida. "The advantages of these (projects) is that you can really park your car and you can walk. You have a 24-hour CVS, all these restaurants, retail. It's a five-minute walk to Brenau, a nine-minute walk to the hospital, it's a five-minute walk to the bus terminal and two of the bus routes come by the project. We feel it's a pedestrian-friendly development."

Looking out toward the fourth side of downtown Gainesville where Knight plans to develop a $16 million multistory complex featuring 15,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and approximately 40 luxury condos above, resident Gary Gibbs worries about congestion.

"Traffic downtown is getting worse every year," Gibbs said.

Gibbs said he would have preferred seeing more retail and business than residential at the proposed project next to the City Parking Deck.

"Normally, the residential doesn't pay enough for services as do businesses," Gibbs said.

Brian Daniel, president of Carroll Daniel Construction, said the $12 million office building his company will build at Main Street and Jesse Jewell Parkway will have about 45 to 50 onsite parking spaces. The company will be moving its headquarters to the proposed 60,000-square-foot office complex.

Daniel said the company has outgrown its headquarter at 921 Athens St.

"We've been there since the 1940s," Daniel said. "We're committed to being part of this community, but there wasn't any class A office space downtown. We wanted to be in Gainesville, but we wanted to be downtown. The ability to walk to restaurants and shops would be a great asset for our employees."

The company plans to occupy the top two floors in the proposed four-story building - approximately 24,000 square feet, according to Daniel.

"We envision there's a market for professional firms, attorneys, CPSs and businesses of that type," Daniel said. On the ground floor we have about 8,000 square feet of retail that could include a restaurant."

Janet Lipscomb lives on the Hall County side of Buford, but likes coming to downtown Gainesville. As a small business owner with her husband, Willie, Lipscomb said she hopes the projects and businesses associated with them thrive.

"I love Gainesville," Lipscomb said. "I just hope it does not lose its hometown personality."