First Ave Gets a Facelift with Gainesville’s More in Midtown Project
An 8-month streetscape construction project, dubbed “More in Midtown,” will bring expanded parking, improved street lighting, wider sidewalks and upgraded water service to NW First Ave. by September 2017.
The project, which broke ground last December, will be adding 40 bike racks, 111 scooter parking spaces, seven loading zones, 50 new trees, 60 car parking spaces and 70 new jobs to the Midtown area, according to a press release.
Upon completion, paid parking will be available through parking meters, a decal or a new mobile parking app.
The Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, which is spearheading the initiative, has previously worked on projects like the construction of Bo Diddley Plaza, the 13th St. Helix Bridge and most recently, the construction of Depot Park.
The streetscape project is expected to cost about $4 million, according to Tricia Lopez, CRA project planner.
“The inspiration for the project first came about in the 1990’s, when the CRA and board acknowledged the need to upgrade the existing utilities to better serve the users,” said Lopez.
“The location of NW First Ave. and the conditions of this section of the street presented a great opportunity to meet many of the redevelopment plan’s goals,” she said of the concept, which became an official streetscape project in 2012.
Dumpsters will be enclosed and overhead utilities will be placed underground to make the area more walkable.
The four block corridor will also be made more safe by creating a continuous 2,000 linear feet of seven feet of walk space to be lined by street lighting. Bricked intersections will also allow for better visibility.
With the addition of recycling bins, more trees and four times the amount of trash bins, Midtown will be becoming more green. Public art will also adorn the area’s walls to make the walk more scenic for pedestrians.
Partners involved in the project include the University of Florida Foundation and University of Florida Student Government, among others.
The CRA has also partnered with local businesses to support building improvements to properties within the Midtown area. Study Edge and the Delta Upsilon fraternity house, along with 11 other properties so far, have benefitted from architectural assistance provided by the CRA.
The CRA is also offering free decals and complementary surface parking to local stakeholders.
“I am most excited for the improvements that will make the corridor safer for pedestrians, such as the continuous sidewalks, moving dumpsters off the right-of-way, and increased lighting,” said Lopez.
“The CRA is making an unprecedented effort to minimize impact during construction, both fiscally and physically,” she said. “At the street level, construction has been phased so that at any given time, two blocks will be under construction while maintaining one-way traffic, and two blocks will be open and unaffected. The construction crews are also working incrementally in order to keep as much of the street accessible as possible.”
“The overall transformation will make the area more inviting, and will draw visitors and local community to visit,” said Lopez. “This is where everyone will want to congregate after UF wins their next National Championship.”
“This has always been a huge game-day gathering spot and an area full of activity, both daytime and nighttime,” she said. “With all the improvements, First Ave. will have a stronger sense of place as the core of Midtown. ”
Sarit Sela, the lead project manager of the More in Midtown project, is looking forward to the improvements in appearance.
“Undergrounding of the utilities and relocation of dumpsters away from the public street area will make a great difference in the overall feel, and will create new, usable space,” said Sela. “I am excited to see these improvements being realized.”
“It is exciting to live and work in a city that in transforming and developing,” said Sela. “I like the new amenities the private and public sectors have been developing in the recent years, and think these add to the creation of a better urban core for Gainesville.”
“It’s been an honor to be involved in the More in Midtown campaign,” said Melanie Ling, creative director and founder of BUDA, the brand and campaign marketing company behind the project. “I really look forward to any project the Gainesville CRA is involved in.”
“They understand the heartbeat of our city and make every effort to produce a project that enriches the community in a beautiful, inclusive way,” said Ling. “As an alumna, and a now long-term resident of Gainesville, I think a Midtown makeover was long overdue. I hope this improved streetscape will greatly benefit the local businesses and patrons, simply in terms of curb appeal but also, space and safety.”
For Egan Herda, operating partner at Fresh Corner, the construction has been present since the business’ conception. Fresh Corner opened its doors around the same time the construction broke ground.
“We’ve really had to just run with it and make the best out of our timing,” said Herda. “Adding more parking, safer sidewalks and fresh trees to the area will be a wonderful improvement to Midtown.”
“Parking is definitely the biggest issue at the moment. Even though we are located at the base of a parking garage, most students don’t want to pay to park before spending money on food,” he said. “I think that the new street parking will really help this issue during the upcoming school year.”
“Personally, I’m excited to see the growth. Alachua County is such an interesting and unique place. Gainesville is the heart of this amazing area,” said Herda. “As a business owner, I’ve had the difficulties of keeping up with positive growth and from my outside perspective, I believe the city had done a great job with their expansions and revamping of the city.”
“Midtown is well known for its late night and weekend activity, so the idea that this project will add a little safety to the area is a wonderful idea,” he said. “We think the new sidewalks will create a much needed buffer zone for pedestrians and traffic. Plus, the street lights and trees will give a nicer look and feel to the street.”
Elizabeth Donohoe, sophomore and criminology major at UF, is also looking forward to increased safety in the area.
“I’m looking forward to the improved lighting in Midtown,” said Donohoe. “I think it’ll be a lot safer for students.”
“I think adding new parking is a good idea,” she said. “That being said, the construction is making it even more inconvenient to find parking for the time being.”