July 21, 2022 | News

Here is what Gainesville has planned to revitalize Athens Street

Writer: Jeff Gill

Published July 21, 2022
yahoo!news, from The Times

A plan to revitalize the Athens Street/U.S. 129 corridor in Gainesville was embraced by residents, but at least one burning question emerged from a one-hour public meeting Wednesday night.

"What will we see happening in the next year ... so we'll leave here with something tangible?" asked one woman who was among the huge crowd that packed the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

Officials went on to describe a few projects that could be done quickly, such as repainting crosswalks and installing "traffic-calming" devices, such as stop signs and speed humps, on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. City Manager Bryan Lackey also mentioned $200,000 for sidewalks.

"We did this (Athens Street) study because we're serious about it, and that'll be just a start," he said, noting studies done in other areas, such as downtown and Park Hill Drive. "Wheels turn slowly, but we're getting there."

City officials unveiled a bigger picture for improvements than mere sidewalks in the predominantly Black community in the July 20 presentation — one that envisions tree-lined streets, public art, landscaping and a potential cultural arts and community center.

Projects are being spaced out in three time frames: 1-3 years, 3-5 years and 5-plus years.

As someone who worked with Gainesville on the study, Leigh Elkins of the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government called the vision for the area "magnificent."

"I think it's worthy of the implementation, and I hope you all will work to move it forward," she said.

The long-term plan, which was initially proposed in February, involves establishing a new community center in the corridor, connecting thousands of feet of trails and sidewalks and beautifying the area. The city has invested heavily in recent years in its downtown and midtown areas, but soon it will turn to a dilapidated part of town long in need of attention.

Special projects could include extending the Midland Greenway from Midtown to Athens Street, creating a Black history walk, annexing the Beulah Rucker Museum into the city of Gainesville and bringing a grocery store to the area, which was dubbed at Wednesday's meeting as a "food desert."

The eastern part of the city has seen some recent developments including the construction of Butler Park, which is set to open this fall.

Officials said they expect the plan will be on the city's website on Thursday, July 21.