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ALACHUA ‒ Shoppers and visitors in downtown Alachua will soon find parking more convenient. On Sept. 26, City of Alachua officials, staff and local business owners gathered in a dirt lot behind Conestoga’s Restaurant. They were there for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new paved parking lot for downtown businesses, customers and visitors.

Located between Main Street and Northwest 142nd Terrace, part of the dirt lot had been used for parking on a patch of land the city has owned for many years. But the spaces available were limited and the lot was on uneven ground with the surrounding land owned by various businesses and individuals. The project comes after numerous property owners in the project’s vicinity donated land and the City of Alachua’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) purchased a closed former daycare facility.

Crediting local property owner support, CRA Coordinator Lindsay Rizzo said, “Their generous contributions are at the forefront of what made this project come to reality. Each of these property owners donated a portion of their land to create a parcel large enough to accomplish this impactful project. There has been a need for additional parking in the downtown area to support these business owners for a long time”

Rizzo says the new parking lot will transform the back of buildings along Main Street as well as enhancing curb appeal with new landscaping. It will enhance access to Main Street via a winding sidewalk between two historic structures with subtle overhead lighting. “It will create a charming walking experience and create a cohesive aesthetic to blend with other projects we have been working,” said Rizzo. “The CRA is very proud to break ground on a project that is much more than just a parking lot.”

The project will also improve the infrastructure and functionality in the downtown area with underground utilities running behind the historic buildings. “This will create open space without poles and wires for businesses to have outdoor dining and cafe spaces,” said Rizzo. “An underground water retention basin will relieve some of the water flow issues during significant rain events and it will enhance safety with a well-lit parking area.”

Funding for the project comes from the City of Alachua general fund, the CRA tax increment financing fund, and the United States Department Agriculture Rural Development. Andrews Paving will construct the parking lot, but due to supply chain issues that still exist, there is no set time for its opening.

“It is with 10 years of forethought, planning and great diligence that we were able to break ground on this parking lot and it will add to the access to all the stores on Main Street,” said Rizzo.

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