Next month, community leaders will celebrate the official start of two highly anticipated projects in the southern end of Gainesville: a new park in Hall County’s District 4 and the continued restoration of The Butler Center.
The official groundbreaking ceremony for the new park is set for 4 p.m. on Nov. 4.
“I’m extremely pleased to see all of the pieces of this puzzle come together for our community,” Hall County District 4 Commissioner Jeff Stowe said. “It’s been a privilege to lobby alongside nearby residents for a park in this area for some time now, and I firmly believe both of these facilities will serve and benefit the residents of District 4 for generations to come.”
The National Park Service officially approved grant funding for the District 4 park on Athens Street earlier this year, making more than half a million dollars available for construction of the park, which will include a playground, pavilion, restrooms, basketball court, water feature, trails and more.
While Hall County Government awaited federal grant funds, Gainesville City School System officials were notified they would also receive federal funding via the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP/ESSER III) to serve at-risk student populations in a proposed service center for students and families at The Butler Center.
The Butler Center is currently owned by Ninth District Opportunity where it operates its Head Start program. The unused portion of the center that was once EE Butler High School’s gym and classroom space is being restored with funds from the grant.
“Given the rich legacy of the Butler Center and the work that is going on nearby at the new District 4 Park, it only made sense to use these funds to rehabilitate that facility and extend our services to students and families,” Dr. Jeremy Williams, superintendent of Gainesville City Schools said. “We have established a committee to collectively brainstorm solutions and potential partners that will work in conjunction with GCSS as we renovate and reopen the Butler Center gymnasium, classroom space, office areas, and entryway. The work will be an extension of GCSS and Hall County Family Connection Network.”
Rev. Rose Johnson, executive director of Gainesville’s Newtown Florist Club, said she is excited about what these two projects will mean to the area.
“Residents in this part of Gainesville have been working tirelessly to bring these types of resources and amenities to this community, and I’m proud of the partnership we’ve formed with both Hall County Government and the Gainesville City School System in bringing this to fruition,” she said.
Johnson said she is particularly impressed with the commitment to the projects community leaders have shown throughout the pandemic.
“We started talking about the possibilities for the Butler Center and the park in August of 2020, and out of those discussions came the E.E. Butler Center Steering Committee, which, under the leadership of Andre' Cheek-Castleberry, has worked diligently to bring government officials and other stakeholders together,” she said. “It has really been the consistency of those meetings and the commitment of those involved that pulled all of the pieces together to move these projects forward in tandem.”
Johnson said the Newtown Florist Club would be hosting a Community meeting on Oct. 26 at 11 a.m. via Facebook Live on the Newtown Florist Facebook page to discuss the projects ahead of the Nov. 4 groundbreaking.
The event next month marking the start of the two projects will be free and open to the public. It will take place at the site of the new park, located behind District 2 Public Health, 1290 Athens Street in Gainesville.