Just before Christmas, it appeared Engine 209 might be removed from a small park area on the outskirts of the downtown Gainesville square, but according to a statement released by the city Thursday, the engine is staying where it is.
Gainesville City government officials announced the northeast corner of Jesse Jewell Parkway and West Academy Street will continue to be used for downtown parking and Engine 209 Park, now that a potential buyer made it official that it no longer intends to purchase the property.
The city owns 1.7 acres bounded by Jesse Jewell Parkway and West Academy, Broad and Maple streets. Northeast Georgia Health System was under contract to purchase the land from the city but officially terminated the agreement on April 4, 2019.
"During the due diligence process, the health system determined that this property did not fit into our short-term and long-term plans," said Sean Couch, Director of Public Relations for Northeast Georgia Health System.
The city said now the area can be incorporated into the downtown master plan.
"Downtown Gainesville is undergoing significant changes, with new building construction, streets, sidewalks, parking and utilities," said Rusty Ligon, the city's Community and Economic Development Director. "Since no immediate development is planned, we have the opportunity to take a step back and see how this corner fits into the changing landscape of downtown."
He said city officials are interested in expanding access and child-friendly features at Engine 209 Park, whether the historic train stays or moves to another location in the downtown/midtown area.
Even if Engine 209 does move away from downtown ultimately, city officials promise it will still be accessible to the public.
"While the city encourages new development and redevelopment in downtown and midtown, preserving the historic character of our community is an important part of the planning process," said City Manager Bryan Lackey. "Whatever happens at this location, the public can rest assured that this historic train will be well taken care of and will remain available to the public."