The Gainesville Renaissance project, also known as the “fourth side of the square”, is well into the construction phase with the steel framing in place and crews beginning to pour the concrete flooring.
Fred Roddy, whose company Roddy Properties is overseeing development of the 60,000 square-foot project, said that the next phase of construction includes laying brick and cast stone on the exterior of the building. He said masons are expected to be on site within the next couple of weeks.
Roddy explained that the project, which includes a three story building in the space that was formerly a public parking lot, is designed to blend in with its surroundings.
“What we’re doing here is we’re trying to create a look that matches a typical court square, Southern architecture where the buildings were developed over different times, sometimes with slightly different materials, so that you’ll see almost sections here,” said Roddy, gesturing to a 2D drawing of the building.
Although the project is only one steel building, Roddy said that it is intentionally designed to look like separate buildings. To create this effect, some sections of the building will have different exteriors than others and sit back from the front of the building.
“The building front will actually be set forwards and backwards between these different styles…the rooflines change to create that same effect,” said Roddy.
Each level of the building is designed for a different purpose. On the bottom floor, on either side of the building, are spaces designed for restaurants. The four spaces in between will be leased to retailers.
Roddy said that there has been some interest in leasing the spaces, but no agreements have been made as businesses continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have held back on retail leasing because we just didn’t think it was fair to go to retail owners and operators right now and say, ‘Hey, how about leasing some space from us while you decide whether you’re going to open or not,’” he said.
The second floor of the building will be dedicated to the Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling at Brenau University. Roddy said that the design of the building reflects this partnership through an architectural component known as a cupola at the top left corner of the building.
The top floor of the building is divided into eight condominiums, each offering balcony space to a view of the downtown square. Roddy said that these condominiums will go on the market once construction is farther along.
Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said that the Gainesville Renaissance project, also known as the “fourth side of the square”, is a “catalyst” for future city projects.
“This really is the site where all the redevelopment in our town, that was a part of that 2015 redevelopment plan, it really radiates from this spot,” said Lackey, referring to the City of Gainesville’s 2015 downtown master plan. “I think people around this region are really starting to notice Gainesville and they’re really starting to kick the tires on what Gainesville has to offer.”
Lackey said that it is hard to gauge the economic impact of the project for the city, but added that citizen response has been largely positive.
“When you see a project that’s such a change from what it was before, a parking lot, I think the public can be a little skeptical,” said Lackey. “When you hear about how good it is and you see pictures like on the screen, they think ‘Well, it won’t be that grand’ but as the steel went up…a lot of people have been enthralled, if you will.”
The space where the project is going up has been many different things in Gainesville history, including a Belk store. In the summer of 2019, Doug Ivester, a New Holland native and local philanthropist, purchased the property and discussions began for its future.
In September 2019, plans for the property were unveiled and developing partners were announced, including Roddy Properties, Carroll Daniel Construction Company as general contractor and Robertson Loia Roof as architect. Stakeholders held a groundbreaking for the project in September of last year.
Roddy said that if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, crews may have started on the project as early as March 2020. As far as funding, Roddy said that the project is operating debt-free with “no dependency on others”.
The project is expected to be completed by early 2022.