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Tuesday May 26th, 2015 5:44AM

City expected to study convention center feasibility

By Derreck Booth Anchor/reporter
GAINESVILLE - Gainesville officials are expected to study the idea of a convention center and adjoining hotel in town.

The city council will vote on putting out a request for proposals at its next meeting. Officials got recent word of a $25,000 award from the Georgia Department of Economic Development to pay for the assessment.

"From some of the research that we've done, we anticipate that that $25,000 would fall about right in line," Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said.

"It's an assessment on the market demand. Is there a market demand for a convention center and adjoining hotel in the city of Gainesville," Sheppard said.

She said any contractor selected to do the study would look at questions such as types of events, frequency of potential use, the size of building and partnering potential.

They'll also look at potential economic impact of such a facility. That includes direct impact, or revenue that wouldn't be there without the center. Sheppard said they'll also look at indirect economic impact. That includes how it would affect restaurants, shops and tourism.

The city recently leased its former downtown multi-purpose facility, the Georgia Mountains Center, to Brenau University. Mayor Danny Dunagan said the area missed out on conventions and attractions that the center was just too small to handle.

There's a new pedestrian bridge that crosses Jesse Jewell Parkway from the Mountains Center to what's become known as midtown.

"That's what I think would be the best, is across the bridge where the hotel is planned there, to connect it with a new convention center," Dunagan said.

Plans for the hotel have not materialized. Dunagan said the city met with the developer recently, and the economy is making it what he called a tough sell for the site.

"They have been talking with some of the hoteliers, and there's a little more interest and a little more activity, but I think we're going to see now what will come of this feasibility study before they go any further," Dunagan said.

Sheppard said the goal is to finish the study by September first. City staffers are still putting together the request for proposal, which would have to be to be advertised. She estimates the actual work would take six to eight weeks or longer.

"I just want everyone to know it's just a feasibility study. It's to look and see if it's needed and make sure it can be paid for once it's built, if it does get built," Dunagan said.
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