Flowery Branch redevelopment consultant Pond and Co. rolled out its proposed vision for the historic downtown Tuesday evening during its final community meeting.
Area residents and merchants gathered with the mayor, members of City Council and city staff to hear the one-hour presentation, followed by a tour of parcels proposed for redevelopment.
“I remember, exactly, four years ago,” said Mayor Mike Miller, addressing the audience that filled the city’s historic train depot, “it’s amazing to look at that sketch and see what’s coming to fruition.”
Pond and Co.’s Joel Reed gave an overview of a vision for downtown, the result of multiple consultant briefings, market studies and community core group input.
“Really, this is just the beginning,” said Flowery Branch City Planner John McHenry. “We’re just laying the groundwork.”
That groundwork includes positioning Old Town as the closest small city to Lake Lanier, and plans for a pedestrian-friendly, event-oriented and merchant-friendly destination.
A number of gateways would frame downtown. It would include its existing historic district, with Atlanta Highway, Gainesville and Chattahoochee streets as boundaries. The city also owns five parcels, which each have proposed uses including residential, park or plaza, and office or retail-friendly structures.
The city would gain a new City Hall that would include community meeting space, administrative offices and the police department. The two-story, approximately 17,000-square-foot structure, fronting Railroad Avenue, would also serve as a buffer from train noise and as a landmark from Atlanta Highway, which parallels downtown.
A new City Hall would free more commercial space, and also afford more flexible parking options for the area, which is underdeveloped for additional traffic. The plan would add 200 parking spaces, for a total of 300.
Parallel to Main Street, consultants propose an extension to the existing Pine Street, which would offer double-frontage for some commercial spaces, and a pedestrian-friendly alley and pocket park.
A proposed connection anchored by a traffic roundabout would ultimately connect Lights Ferry Road to Mitchell Street and downtown. One property has been acquired for that purpose. Two additional homeowners were at the meeting, but said they have had no formal discussions with the city on the plan.
Updated stormwater plans and other infrastructure issues were also addressed.
Among questions from the audience were the uses of community space for a theater, for example, and the availability of restroom facilities, neither of which have been given in-depth consideration. Pond and Co.’s Reed encouraged continued community input.
Funding for the redevelopment, Reed said, could come from existing tax allocation district and local option sales tax funds, as well as a special local option sales tax if renewed. Public-private partnerships also are being explored.
“We have the political will to make this happen,” said McHenry.
This final plan will be presented to the full City Council in November.