Downtown Lawrenceville 'progress'-ing

Lawrenceville is breathing new life into its downtown - one building at a time. Last week it was the old Hotel Button Gwinnett at the corner of Perry and Crogan streets on the downtown square. The recently refurbished building that now houses the trendy Bistro Solterra was officially named for county namesake Button Gwinnett in a dedication ceremony Wednesday.

This is one in a string of renovations for the brick structure built in 1895. Originally three stories, the landmark lost its top in a 1927 fire.

The remaining floors were salvaged and for years housed the Hotel Button Gwinnett and restaurant.

The corner property was renovated in the 1970s, part of a downtown revitalization effort. After another 30 years and another renovation, the building beams.

But the Button Gwinnett Building is just one example of what's transpiring in downtown Lawrenceville. Succinctly put: What's old is new again.

Last year a similar ceremony was held a few storefronts down. There, a building directly across from the old courthouse was named in honor of Rhodes Jordan, who served the city as mayor for eight terms.

While those buildings have garnered a lion's share of attention with dedications and naming ceremonies, there's a lot more going on downtown.

Other proprietors have watched their neighbors upgrade and are doing the same. Soon, a parking garage will nestle just east of the square, providing plenty of parking within a jaunt of downtown shops and restaurants.

The Aurora Theatre, a professional acting troupe, is scheduled to take up new quarters in a renovated downtown church.

Emory Morsberger and his company, The Morsberger Group, have played a large role in the downtown renaissance. City leaders are on board, willing to take the necessary steps to make their downtown a destination. Fellow property owners are joining in.

A quick tour affords ample evidence that the efforts of all involved are paying off.

Some traffic issues still loom. The anticipated parking garage will ease motorists' search for an open spot along the street.

But traffic rushing along the highways that border the square can make things scary for pedestrians. Rerouting highway traffic away from the square would go a long way in creating a calming effect for those on foot.

At the turn of this century, downtown Lawrenceville was looking a bit, shall we say, long in the tooth. Today, there's a new vibrancy. It's more than the spruced-up buildings. There's a welcoming attitude. More events, shops and restaurants are drawing people to the Historic Courthouse and the downtown area.

When Morsberger began his effort, he placed placards that boasted "Progress is Coming" in the windows of the downtown properties he had recently acquired.

Today, the downtown area can claim "Progress is Here."

J.K. Murphy is publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post. He can be reached via e-mail at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.