FLOWERY BRANCH — A Flowery Branch downtown improvement effort that began in 2007 and relied heavily on grant money as it went through two stages of work was completed during May.
With a total price tag of more than $500,000, the South Hall city has dressed up Railroad Avenue between Snelling Avenue and Main Street, Main Street between Railroad and Church Street, and Church Street between Main and Pine Street.
The project has included new sidewalks, decorative streetlights and other flourishes, including landscaping, to complement the downtown’s historic flavor.
“I think they look great, and I think every improvement to this town is just an added benefit to all of us,” said Janet Upchurch of Sample Pleasures Gifts and Antiques, which sits at the corner of Railroad and Main.
The projects have been financed mostly through Transportation Enhancement grants, funded by the U.S. government but administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The South Hall city also chipped in matching money, including $50,000 for design work in the final phase.
The first phase focused on Main Street and the most recent phase on Railroad Avenue, which runs parallel to railroad tracks running through town and serves as a main entrance to the downtown area.
The city had hoped to finish sprucing up Railroad Avenue by the end of 2011, but a mix-up over streetlights — they came in shorter than expected — delayed completion.
Now that everything is done, “we’re satisfied with the work,” City Planner James Riker said Thursday.
Before the project, a lack of sidewalks posed a problem, especially at festival time, as people parked in yards and then walked through them on their way to Main Street.
Also, the city has used a $50,000 state Gateway Grant for landscaping along Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway, from Chattahoochee Street south to the city limits near the sewer treatment plant.
That work marked the second phase of a landscaping project.
The city received an earlier $50,000 grant to complete beautification efforts between Waterstone Crossing subdivision at Vireo Drive and Thurmon Tanner Parkway.
Funding for those grants came from fees paid by outdoor advertising companies to the DOT for vegetation removal at signs, according to the DOT. Flowery Branch has no other scenic improvements planned.
The Gateway program’s 2012 call for applications has been canceled “due to a lack of funds,” according to the DOT.
The Transportation Enhancement program is still in force, “but frankly, as of right now, we don’t really have an idea about where to have another project, so we’re kind of on hold,” Riker said.
The city is working with its Historic Preservation Commission on the possibility of hanging banners from the Railroad Avenue light poles, an idea that has yet to gain traction, he said.