Kudos to the City of Gainesville, who has developed a creative solution to support local businesses during the pandemic- Streatery GNV.
As we know, most of the public space we can find in U.S. cities is often dedicated to cars, not people. The way people use public space is changing here in Gainesville as City officials work with local restaurant and bar owners to find ways to reopen businesses safely, simultaneously allowing for both physical distancing and a sense of community. One such idea being implemented is StreateryGNV. Through this innovative initiative, the City is strategically closing select travel lanes, on-street parking, and public lots in midtown and downtown to allow for expanded outdoor seating in certain areas.
This program aligns with the goals of the Downtown Strategic Master Plan that is currently in the works to revitalize and attract visitors to downtown. It is also reflective of a wider national trend of “activating public spaces” – improving neighborhood safety and well-being through changes in the built environment, programs, and policy.
City planners successfully navigated many challenges to draft this plan, some of which include ingress/egress, ADA access, emergency access, and existing ordinances. Considering the serious impacts of COVID-19 on businesses and individuals, the City is taking advantage of this opportunity to provide flexibility to those affected by allowing for business to be conducted outdoors, lessening the risks associated with people congregating in enclosed areas.
City staff looked towards similar programs in Austin TX, Madison WI, Portland OR, Savannah GA, and Tempe AZ for inspiration and guidance. Streatery GNV is expected to run through at least December and will certainly help support businesses until this public health crisis has ended. And who knows? This temporary addition of usable outdoor space may prove so popular that it becomes permanent!
The link to the City’s newsroom press release for Streatery GNV can be found here: http://cityofgainesville.org/Newsroom/tabid/805/PostID/2064/Default.aspx