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Gainesville Downtown Strategies: a PlanFirst Success Story

As stated in the City of Gainesville’s Community agenda of 2012 (Gainesville 2030 Comprehensive Plan), downtown Gainesville is the traditional economic heart of the community as well as the seat of City government. To that end, the comprehensive plan focused many strategies and implementation measures to supporting and enhancing activities in and around the Downtown/Midtown core of the community.

Continued economic viability of its historic downtown is a priority of the City of Gainesville, as evident by its commitment to developing a detailed strategic plan to guide growth, redevelopment, and innovation in the urban central core. Using an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Economic Development Grant for Non-construction, the City of Gainesville contracted with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) to develop strategies to strengthen, sustain and expand downtown Gainesville. After a ten-month planning process, the Downtown Gainesville Renaissance Strategic Vision & Plan is complete and implementation is underway.

Gainesville’s Downtown Strategic Plan clarifies what resources are required to reach the community’s vision for Downtown – a walkable, connected downtown that preserves the rich heritage and character of Gainesville’s past while embracing a more vibrant future. The plan sets forth a series of action items which outline the “what, when and who” critical to strengthening Downtown Gainesville within four broad categories – connectivity, programming, design and economic development. Efforts intended to implement action items under all four categories have been initiated, including streetscaping projects and “greening the moat” or major roadways surrounding Gainesville’s Central Business District (connectivity), display lighting on downtown buildings and public art throughout the central core (programming), review of model ordinances for downtown architectural and site design on vacant tracts (design), and market analysis for mixed-use development on publicly-owned property.

As well, the City opened its “Upper Lanier Water Trail” which is a 14-mile section of Lake Lanier and a continuation of the “Upper Chattahoochee River Water Trail” that connects five lake parks. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Vision 2030 Public Art Committee (on which the City plays an active, integral role) created a public art walking tour brochure, drafted guidelines for the installation of public art, and initiated the “Free Range Art” mural project which involves a call for artists to have their selected works of art printed on an 8-foot by 8-foot marine canvas and attached to the facades of buildings in Gainesville’s Downtown and along its Midtown Greenway.

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