HALL COUNTY - The proprietor at one of the oldest stores in downtown Gainesville is embracing the recent announcement that a $16 million mixed-use multistory building is coming to the south side of the square.
“The square needs to be squared again,” Lorry Schrage said Tuesday. “The more things that are downtown, the more people and more business. It’s pretty simple, really.”
Schrage’s family opened Saul’s — featuring women’s fashions and shoes — at the square in 1939. The store has been a fixture. It’s only change has been moving from one side of the square to its current location, 100 Main St.
Schrage particularly likes the fact that the mixed-use development at the square will feature 40 luxury condos above planned retail and restaurants. He said that’s an influx of residents who will attract visitors to the downtown.
The shop owner was one of dozens of merchants who attended a “Coffee Break” meeting at the Main Street Market to hear from city officials about the changes coming to the downtown area.
Gainesville Main Street Manager Regina Dyer said the informative coffee break sessions are held every few months. She said Tuesday’s session offered her and City Manager Bryan Lackey the opportunity to explain the projects, what they would bring to the city and at the same time address any concerns merchants might have.
Dyer said most of the concerns dealt with parking, traffic and disruptions construction would bring.
“I think we will have growing pains, but just like the disruption and the closure of Main Street for the sewer line repairs the past few weeks, the anticipation was greater than the actual impact,” Dyer said. “I feel confident that we will run business as usual during construction, and I suspect that the construction will bring onlookers to our downtown.”
Coming to downtown Gainesville
Location: South side of square
Investment: $16 million
Size: 15,000 square feet
Use: Street-level restaurants and retail with 40 luxury condos above
Groundbreaking: First quarter 2018
Location: Jesse Jewell Parkway and Maple Street (Old Greater South Lot)
Investment: $25 million
Size: 30,000 square feet
Use: Street-level retail and restaurants with 150 market rate apartments above
Groundbreaking: Third quarter 2018
Location: Jesse Jewell and Main Street (Main Street Parking Lot)
Investment: $12 million
Size: 60,000 square feet
Use: Office space, retail
Groundbreaking: Fourth quarter 2017
Source: City of Gainesville
Vanessa Butler, manager of Purchase Effect at the Main Street Market, said owner Connie Rock and her husband, Don, are excited about the exposure the projects will bring to the downtown commercial district.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re here,” Butler said. “We’re going to see more people come in, and that’s going to bring more business to the square.”
Sandra Cain, an attendant at Rahab’s Rope, located at 118 Washington St., said owners Vicki and David Moore also are embracing the projects.
“We’re all from Gainesville and we’ve seen the improvements that have been made here,” Cain said. “We see this as a big positive.”
Dyer said ongoing communication will be the key to a smooth transition. She said the city will continue to bring the more than 50 events it coordinates annually during construction.
“Future events will relocate to the street, interior of the square and the newly renovated Roosevelt Square,” she said. “I think if we continue to keep our downtown informed, the concerns will be eased.”