August 7, 2016 | Spotlight

Gainesville to enhance downtown connectivity through Institute partnership

Gainesville to enhance downtown connectivity through Institute partnership

Writer: Roger Nielsen

The City of Gainesville is launching a significant downtown accessibility enhancement program through an ongoing revitalization partnership with the Institute of Government.

"Creating Connectivity in Gainesville" will improve pedestrian access to the heart of the city with "green" crosswalk improvements and other streetscape installations that encourage visitation, reduce traffic speeds, expand downtown green space, and filter stormwater runoff.

The Institute was awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities initiative to support the 18-month program. The city government is contributing nearly $75,000 in matching funds and in-kind aid to install planted medians, pedestrian islands, and additional greenery on four perimeter streets surrounding Gainesville's historic city square. A private donor pledged $5,000 for trees and landscape plants.

Planted medians to calm traffic and bioswales to collect stormwater runoff will be installed on the four streets, which currently comprise a high-traffic "moat" that limits pedestrian access to downtown. The Institute will help establish a citizen committee that will recommend specific locations for improvements on Jesse Jewell Parkway, E.E. Butler Parkway, Academy Street and West Academy Street. The Institute also will recruit volunteers and organize a "Connect Gainesville Planting and Cleanup Day" community service event.

Partnering with Gainesville residents heightens engagement and demonstrates how green infrastructure can enhance pedestrian mobility while effectively managing stormwater runoff, according to Jessica Tullar, Gainesville's special projects manager. "The greening of our ‘downtown moat' not only will improve pedestrian safety and stormwater runoff, but also will enhance aesthetics and will alert motorists they have arrived at a destination," Tullar said.

Design concepts for the "Creating Connectivity" project were developed for the "2015 Strategic Vision and Plan for Downtown Gainesville" that the Institute prepared last year through the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership. The partnership is an Institute collaboration with the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Cities Foundation, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and others to cultivate vigorous downtowns in cities across the state.