GAINESVILLE – Those arriving for Thursday morning’s city council work session, as well as those who work inside the Gainesville Administration Building on Henry Ward Way, were greeted by an odd sight: the lower level doors were open, the barricades were gone, detour signs had vanished and a smiling Deb Gravitt, Director of Tourism for the city, was welcoming people into the city’s latest upgrade.
Since January the lower level of the Administrative Building has been closed for a badly needed renovation, and now the rehabilitated square-footage was ready for action.
Although not officially open (the requisite ribbon-cutting ceremony had yet to occur) city officials smiled as people entered through the doors in the glass wall. Even Mayor Danny Dunagan stopped by to inspect the new lobby and welcome a handful of arrivals. Gainesville’s Public Relations Manager Christina Santee called it a “soft opening”.
“I was ashamed of that first floor,” Dunagan said during the work session. “It was awful; it was dark and had an old ugly floor.”
Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said, “It’s open to the public now.”
Sheppard added that the long-running tradition of public notices being posted on a bulletin board in the entry foyer informing visitors of upcoming events and other sundry city-related information was over; technology was replacing cork board and thumb tacks.
“When you come in you will see our TVs that are up,” Sheppard said of how the latest information will be shared. “It’s all digital.”
Among those most excited about the re-opening are those who were displaced during construction. The Convention and Visitors Bureau had moved to the old city hall building next door; Information Technology was relocated to the third floor or anywhere else there was an unused space; the Finance Department was on the lower level but has now permanently moved to the building’s second floor.
Project cost for the makeover was just over $2-million. Until the summer of 2012 the city shared the building with Hall County Government.