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Flowery Branch looks to improve downtown
Officials hope to put out a bid package early next year
The city of Flowery Branch hopes to put together a bid package early next year for a downtown improvement project. The project involves sidewalks and street lights on Railroad Avenue. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Flowery Branch hopes to get moving next year on a downtown improvement project that has lingered for a couple of years.

The South Hall city plans to focus particularly on dressing up Railroad Avenue, which leads to Main Street and runs parallel to Atlanta Highway, a main road through town.

Officials hope to put out a bid package early next year, perhaps by spring, on the project, City Planner James Riker said.

"Right now, we're in final right-of-way acquisition. We need to secure some temporary construction easements to actually be able to do the work," he said.

The target area is Railroad between Snelling Avenue and the planned Old Town Flowery Branch development north of Main Street, as well as Church Street between Main and Pine streets.

"The project will primarily consist of sidewalks and street lighting," Riker said.

Financing the work is a $250,000 state Transportation Enhancement grant and a $50,000 match from the city.

"We've already spent our match," Riker told Flowery Branch City Council in a recent meeting. "We're at the point now where we just need to move forward and receive our funds from (the state Department of Transportation). It's a very long process."

The city contracted in February 2009 with a Norcross-based firm, Pond & Co., to do preliminary engineering on the project.

Flowery Branch's downtown efforts, partially paid for by a previous transportation grant, go back several years.

The city wrapped up a major "streetscaping" effort in February 2008 that involved landscaping, widening sidewalks on the first block of Main Street off Railroad Avenue, installing new streetlights and benches with a historic flavor and adding parking spaces. That work ended up costing about $488,000.

Neighboring Oakwood also has worked to improve the look of its downtown area, having completed a project this year involving Railroad Street, which, like Flowery Branch's Railroad Avenue, runs alongside a rail line through the heart of town.

That project included new sidewalks and brick crosswalks.
City Council just voted to apply for a Transportation Enhancement grant to do more work along Main Street, between Railroad Street and Oakwood Elementary School at Academy Street.

The city already has $100,000 in hand from a previous grant, and City Planner Larry Sparks has said the city would like to combine that amount with money from the new grant to end up with $300,000 to $500,000 for the project.

The Transportation Enhancement program helps pay for "multiuse facilities," such as walking and biking trails and paths, street improvements and landscaping projects, historic preservation of transportation-related structures (such as railroad depots) and preservation of scenic byways.