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Oakwood presents plan to reshape the way it looks

POSTED: October 12, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

From left, Oakwood assistant city manager Patty Doss-Luna, John Vardeman and Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown unveil the master plans for the Oakwood 2030 plan during a meeting at the Oakwood City Hall Tuesday.

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OAKWOOD -- Oakwood city officials unveiled an ambitious plan Tuesday to reshape 253 acres surrounding the city's downtown center and the yet-to-be-built final leg of Thurmon Tanner Parkway.

"We know we can't do this alone," City Manager Stan Brown said of the Oakwood 2030 plan. "Our job is to cast a vision and steer development in the right direction."

The plan, presented publicly for the first time to the South Hall Business Coalition, foresees construction of multiuse and commercial buildings on large chunks of now-vacant land through the city, as well as redevelopment of other, older parts of town.

Highlights of the plan include an amphitheater, a new multistory City Hall and a commuter rail station that would sit along the railroad tracks running through the heart of the town.

"You've got to have a vision if you ever have a reality," said Brown, who presented a computerized slideshow to the business group meeting at City Hall.

City officials expect that the plan will involve $150 million to $250 million of private investment and about $50 million in public investment through 2030, including infrastructure and "key land acquisition pieces," Brown said.

Financing would come in several ways, including through a tax allocation district, which the city has approved and now awaits the Hall County commission's OK, and possibly setting up a community improvement district that can set its own tax rate.

Brown said the city also will pursue other funding sources. "At the appropriate time, we'll hit up the state legislature," he said, with a laugh.

The city has set aside $1 million, profits from selling land to a private developer for its Oakwood South Industrial Park, to pay for initial land planning and engineering work, city officials said.

Denise Deal, immediate past chairwoman of Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's Vision 2030, praised the city for its efforts.

"You are dreaming big and have the vision to think beyond the end of your nose," she said.

The 2030 plan affects mostly older, largely undeveloped parts of the town, along what is now narrow two-lane streets around long-established homes, municipal buildings, Oakwood Elementary School, and the U.S. post office and First Baptist Church of Oakwood that sit at Main Street and Old Oakwood Road.

Along with the plan, the city also unveiled a new logo featuring waves and strokes of bright and hunter green and motto, "The shape of life to come."

The plan puts names on certain areas throughout town - Government Town Center, Town Commons, Main Street Village, Historic Neighborhood, Neighborhood Village and Commercial Center.

It also features three miles of connecting trails, parks and green spaces.

At Tuesday's meeting, Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs thanked city officials for their work on the project.

"It is a dream. It is a vision," he said. "If you don't have that vision; if you don't work for it and to it, it won't happen."

He sees the area eventually becoming a place where "you can worship, live, work and play. We're going to do it. It's just that simple."

The city will take its first leap toward fulfilling its vision later this month.

The state Department of Transportation is set to consider construction bids on the Thurmon Tanner project Oct. 17 in Atlanta.

Thurmon Tanner is a four-lane road running between Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch and Plainview Road in Oakwood.

The final leg would extend the road to Mundy Mill Road, with the work scheduled to wrap up about the time the state finishes its $75 million reconstruction of roads around Interstate 985 and Exit 16.

Thurmon Tanner now picks up at Mundy Mill Road and runs to Atlanta Highway and a new I-985 interchange.

On Monday night, the Oakwood City Council voted to pay an engineering firm for additional design work involving three median breaks between Plainview and Old Oakwood roads.

Those median breaks would tie into roads that would run into the newly created development area.

The envisioned new Oakwood is a far cry from what John Vardeman recalled from his days growing up in the area.

"I always thought of Oakwood as a place on the way, whether I was going to Gainesville State or down the road to Atlanta," said Vardeman, president of Morton Vardeman & Carlson, the Gainesville firm marketing the project. "Oakwood was just a name on an exit sign."

He said the city has lacked a "geographic heart or center."

"What this plan does ... is we're putting heart and soul together and creating a true community," Vardeman said.

 

 

 



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