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Planning Success Stories

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Altamaha River Partnership, HOGA Regional Commission

The Altamaha River Partnership is a coalition of state, regional, and local representatives formed in 1998 to promote nature-based tourism and associated economic development opportunities within 11 counties bordering the Altamaha River. The Partnership is addressed in the comprehensive plans and partial plan updates, as applicable, for all seven (7) Heart of Georgia Altamaha RC counties located along the River. These include: Appling, Jeff Davis, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, and Wayne counties.

The Altamaha River is considered an ecosystem of global import, having been designated as one of the 75 Last Great Places in the world, replete with both outstanding natural resources and significant cultural history of state, national, and world importance. The group’s motto is “Sustaining the River that Sustains Us.”

The Altamaha River Partnership is referenced in both the Regional Resource Plan: Regionally Important Resources for the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Region (2012) and Green with Greener Days Ahead: A Regional Plan for the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission, Regional Assessment (2013). The organization grew out of regional efforts searching for means to increase tourism and increase access to the River within the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Region. Major accomplishments of the group include nearly $3 million of improvements to Altamaha River recreational facilities and landings; development of a state-recognized canoe trail, river maps, guides and promotional materials; and organized annual events featuring the River. The Altamaha River Partnership has also served as a model and stimulus for organization of the new Ocmulgee Water Trail Association. (See www.altamahariver.org)

Dublin Downtown Revitalization

The City of Dublin, its Main Street Program, and its Downtown Development Authority are collaborating in major revitalization and improvement efforts to enhance downtown Dublin’s appearance and economic and social vibrancy. The community is realizing much success in creating a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly downtown, while fostering economic and business growth and preserving its history and architecture. Downtown revitalization with a historic preservation emphasis and the creation of pedestrian-friendly connections were foundation principles of the 2009 Laurens County Joint Comprehensive Plan.

The community has been very active the last several years making enhancements to its quality of life. Among these accomplishments are the construction of a farmers market (Market on Madison, also included as a local success story), a pedestrian plaza connecting the market to a principal downtown hub and street, the rehabilitation of its historic theater and Carnegie library to community use. The community has also facilitated public and private partnerships to bring back both residential and business uses to major downtown landmark buildings, such as the Fred Roberts Hotel, the former post office, and Dublin’s renowned “Skyscraper,” the seven-story former First National Bank.

Dublin Urban Redevelopment Plan

Revitalization activities in Dublin are a priority in the Laurens County Joint Comprehensive Plan. The City of Dublin developed an Urban Redevelopment Plan for the Southside community with hopes of removing barriers that have hindered redevelopment efforts. The City is guiding implementation of the Plan, which includes creation of an Enterprise Zone and state-designed Opportunity Zone, as well as pursuing other state and federal programs to encourage redevelopment projects in the area. The city backed up the plan with significant public investment in the area via the Southside Gateway Project (2011-12) which provided new traffic signals, lighting, sidewalks, and curbing, landscaping and streetscape amenities along the MLK Corridor. Several activities have occurred in the wake of this plan and associated public investment, including Piglet Supermarkets, Inc. (2008). The business is a privately owned grocery store that built a new facility and created 20 new jobs. Another entity locating in the Zone was Alterra Networks, LLC (2012). The business offers Cisco, computer, internet networking. The company renovated the old Post Office and created 8 new jobs. Deborah Stanley

Dublin's Farmer's Market

Throughout the most recent Laurens County and cities comprehensive plan are references to the “Farmers' Market on Madison,” as a place to purchase locally produced goods, a tourism destination and a destination for a bike path. Located in downtown Dublin, The Market on Madison, is a premier open-air venue. Constructed by the City of Dublin in 2004 using SPLOST and USDA grant funding, the Market operates every Saturday April-November, 7:30 am-12:30 pm. It offers a vast array of local and organic produce, as well as artisan foods, farm-raised eggs, and raw honey as well as a variety of hand-made crafts and original art. Over the last two seasons, the Dublin Farmers' Market has experienced much growth, counting over 30 vendors each week and several hundred patrons during peak produce season. Future plans for the Market include EBT/SNAP Card acceptance and promotion as a regional tourism destination. In addition to the farmers' market, the Market on Madison is host to a variety of public and private events. The Market's amphitheater is home to the First Friday Concerts March thru October, presented by Dublin's Main Street program. The facility and grounds are available as a rental space and are often used for weddings, parties, and photo shoots. The Market is located at 314 W. Madison St., and is managed by Main Street Dublin and Downtown Development Authority. 478-272-2560

Jesup McMillan Creek Greenway

The City of Jesup has developed the McMillan Creek Greenway over several years through several phases: phases 1 and 2 have been completed, and phase 3 is underway. The creation of, and enhancements to, the Greenway have been included as both short-term and long-term work activities in the Wayne County-Jesup-Odum-Screven comprehensive plan. The Greenway was created by restoring the creek, which had been channelized over the years, to its natural ecosystem and adding paths and trails alongside the creek. The primary purpose was to provide a scenic recreation area, while at the same time, to encourage walking within the community and reduce pollution from runoff into the creek. It includes a "people trail” for walking, jogging, bicycling and roller-blading along one side, and an equestrian trail along the other. The paths allow children in several neighborhoods to walk to the nearby schools more easily. Wayne County and Jesup Comp Plan

Jesup Railroad Depot

The Jesup Railroad Depot was originally erected in 1903 by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL). While it still served as one of three Amtrak station stops in Georgia (as part of Amtrak’s north-south Silver Service), the depot had fallen into disrepair and limited use by its owner, CSX Transportation. The railroad depot further suffered severe damage to its roof and interior from an electrical fire in 2003, which prevented additional inside lobby use by Amtrak patrons, and threatened continued Amtrak use as a station stop. The railroad depot and Amtrak station had long been recognized as a vital economic use and benefit both locally, and on a regional basis.

To preserve the structure, its important Amtrak use, and its landmark downtown status, the City of Jesup was successful in purchasing the depot from CSX, and in having it designated at the federal level as a High Priority Project by the Federal Highway Administration. This designation facilitated receipt of $836,000 in federal transportation funds in 2005 to restore the depot. Ground-breaking for restoration was held in December, 2011.

Completion of the rehabilitation of the Jesup Railroad Depot was first celebrated during the October, 2012 City of Jesup’s Arch Festival, and later with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony in March, 2013. The Jesup Downtown Depot is now a gleaming centerpiece for downtown Jesup, which includes a beautiful new waiting room for Amtrak passengers, community meeting spaces, and new offices and welcome center for the Wayne County Board of Tourism. The adjacent area to the depot has been further upgraded and landscaped by the City of Jesup to add a fountain and its historic Arch. The historic Jesup Railroad Depot is once again an important, functioning component of downtown revitalization, and local and regional economic development.

Johnson County Government Complex: a PlanFirst community success

For many years, Johnson County has needed additional office and meeting space for several county departments. Plans to develop a Government Complex have been in place for many years and span the length of two comprehensive plans. Recently, Johnson County completed renovating and repurposing an abandoned building in downtown Wrightsville. The facility is approximately 11,000 square feet, and now houses the Board of Commissioners, Board of Elections and Registrar, Board of Assessors, Tax Commissioner, Coroner, and Code Enforcement. The building includes a few conference rooms and a large board room. The project created additional room at the courthouse, thus solving the space issue that existed there. The project was funded through SPLOST, and project costs were decreased by utilizing labor through the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Regional Yard Sale: Peaches to Beaches

The “Peaches to the Beaches” Yard Sale is an annual event organized by the Golden Isles Parkway Association, Inc., a non-profit organization created by the communities located along U.S. Highway 341 in central and south Georgia. The organization’s focus is to stimulate travel, growth, and economic development along U.S. 341.

The comprehensive plans of all the counties involved have included references to and activities associated with this annual miles-long economic and tourism development event. Additionally, in their regional plan, the Heart of Georgia Altamaha recognizes its importance to the region. The “Peaches to the Beaches” Yard Sale was an idea which originated within the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Region (Jeff Davis County), and was patterned after the Highway 127 Yard Sale in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.

(See www.peachestothebeaches.com)

Swainsboro's Main Street Market

While the project is not mentioned specifically by name in the community’s current 2007 comprehensive plan, the Main Street Market Project is exemplary implementation of the plan’s overall Community Vision, the downtown Swainsboro Character Area, and long term policies espoused in their 2007 comprehensive plan. Their vision from that 2007 plan states in part: Emanuel County will be a regional growth center and a leader in quality rural development with a vibrant economy… The development of this downtown market and the ancillary things that have developed around it is an obvious part of the realization of this vision. The Main Street Market received a Georgia Downtown Association 2011 Award for Economic Restructuring – Best Problem Solving. The project remains fully supported by the community and is prominently mentioned and displayed on community websites.

The reactivation of the Swainsboro Downtown Development Authority was a specific item in Swainsboro’s original STWP (2007-2011), and pursuit of Main Street designation and other downtown revitalization support were items in the latest STWP (2012-2017). The expansion of Arts Emanuel’s facilities and the development of new events/activities to attract visitors were specific items included in the original Swainsboro plan. It is receiving more prominent attention by name in the new community comprehensive plan being prepared in 2017.

The Downtown Development Authority office is located in Swainsboro City Hall. The DDA employs both a Downtown Director, and a Main Street Market Manager, who is located onsite in the Market. The community is prominently using the project in local economic and tourism marketing, including an I-16 billboard promoting antiques in Swainsboro and cross-marketing with local inns and restaurants.

The project has energized local arts and cultural efforts by the Emanuel Arts Council (EAC). It is a major reason the EAC and City of Swainsboro are proceeding, and enjoying widespread community support, with renovating the Historic Dixie Theater downtown as the Barbara and Tobe Karrh Community Arts Center. Main Street Market truly is quite the innovative success, and implementation of the Community Vision and DDA mission to enhance economic development, while showcasing and promoting the community and downtown’s cultural heritage.

Tales from the Altamaha

Both the Toombs County Joint Comprehensive Plan and the Heart of Georgia Regional Commission regional assessment recognized the importance of the Altamaha River and the Tales from the Altamaha to the economic well being of the community. Fitting nicely into the community goal of developing and promoting regional tourism, Tales from the Altamaha is a folk-life play organized by the Lyons Better Hometown Program (recently renamed Lyons Main Street) and performed in the downtown Lyons Blue Marquee Theater in April of each year. The play, which has received much success and acclaim, is based on stories of the colorful characters, events, and heritage of early settlers along the Altamaha River written by a local lawyer, Colonel Thomas Ross Sharpe, and published weekly during the 1950s and 1960s in the local newspaper, the Lyons Progress. Tales from the Altamaha has been performed each year since 2005. The play has been a boon, not only to the restoration of the Blue Marquee Theater, but to the economic and cultural revitalization of the entire Lyons downtown. (See www.lyonsga.org/tales-from-the-altamaha/)

Vidalia Municipal Annex

The Vidalia Municipal Annex, located at 302 East First Street, in downtown Vidalia, is an impressive building with 45,000 square feet of space for municipal purposes, and is the visual embodiment of their 2009-2013 Short Term Work Program activities that called for the City to “Seek to construct a new police department facility” and for them to “Seek to expand City Hall and the Community Center.” The attractive building now houses the Vidalia Police Department, Vidalia Municipal Court, the Vidalia City Council Chambers and offices, as well as meeting and training space. This meeting space is already being widely used on both a local and regional basis. The Vidalia Municipal Annex is a greyfield development and adaptive reuse of a downtown “white elephant,” as the building was a vacated Winn-Dixie grocery store in its previous incarnation. The Vidalia Municipal Annex has also been an important stimulus for additional downtown revitalization, both public and private.
Vidalia's Downtown City Park

Among the long-term work activities included in their 2009 comprehensive plan was the stated desire to support and expand the promotion of community events, including those associated with the Vidalia Onion Festival. A broader activity in that same work program called for seeking funding for public space improvements. Both of these have been realized in the development of the new Downtown Vidalia City Park. This park also addresses several items in the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission regional plan, especially the items dealing with supporting and enhancing local tourism efforts and supporting downtown revitalization efforts throughout the region.

The City razed the old Police Department building located behind City Hall, and created the Downtown Vidalia City Park. This is a one-half acre passive park consisting of an outdoor stage, Vidalia Onion Fountain, picnic tables and benches, green space, and 75 landscaped parking spaces adjacent to Vidalia’s historic downtown. The new park will be an attractive community gathering place for visitors and shoppers, and has already served as the location of a street dance and other activities during the 2014 Vidalia Onion Festival. Other events held there include a local hospice-sponsored fall music festival each September, the annual Fall Festival/Trick or Treating, and a monthly car show/Cruise-In event, with more events being planned for Christmas, Easter, and other times year round.
Wayne County Tourism

The Wayne County Board of Tourism is successfully utilizing its outstanding natural resources and outdoor beauty to increase tourism and promote economic development within Wayne County. A work program activity in its most recent comprehensive plan states that they will “Seek to expand the promotion of existing events and develop new events/activities as appropriate to attract visitors.” The community promotes itself as a location of nostalgic charm, outdoor adventure, Southern hospitality, sportsman’s paradise, and scenic relaxation. The Altamaha River, with its natural splendor, historic treasures, and abundant outdoor opportunities, is a main focus of activities and events. The Board of Tourism seeks to hold monthly events and at least one annual event in all three municipalities of Wayne County. Events include a wide variety of activities from fishing tournaments, hunting contests, and community festivals to geo-caching, bike rides, and organized runs. The Board of Tourism also hosts “A Day in Wayne” which showcases Wayne County as a home for business, and features outdoor activities, including boat rides, hunts, and fishing opportunities, for elected officials and economic development professionals throughout Georgia. Wayne County’s fishing tournaments and hunting contests offer financial prizes, and are attracting a growing notoriety and increasing number of participants from beyond Georgia. (See www.waynetourism.com)

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