Flowery Branch of the future could feature intense development, including a multiscreen theater, more big-box stores and shopping centers, walking trails and downtown roads that provide easy access to Lake Lanier.
City Manager Bill Andrew cast such a vision Thursday morning at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's South Hall Business Coalition meeting.
"You're going to be seeing changes in the idea that we've got a center of excellence, an environment for excellence really occurring" in different areas of town, Andrew told the group, meeting at the Mulberry Creek Community Center at 4491 JM Turk Road.
He gave the predictions despite the economic downturn, which has drastically slowed growth in the once-thriving city.
"We've certainly had excitement about problems, but we've got excitement about opportunities right now and that's what I really like to see," Andrew said.
The downtown area is starting to see activity, including a new bakery and a restaurant slated to open on Main Street. And community theater group Fifth Row Center has set up offices on Main Street.
The city also used Thursday's meeting as an opportunity to introduce newly elected officials. Mayor Mike Miller and Councilwoman Amanda Swafford. and Councilman Kris Yardley, who began his first four-year term in January, also spoke to the gathering.
Over the past four years, the city has "made a commitment of spending" about $1.6 million on downtown, including buying real estate, road work and sidewalk improvements, Andrew said.
The city also has spent about $130,000 generated by its tax allocation district on demolition of an old downtown manufacturing building.
The City Council closed Oct. 18 on about 7 acres of downtown property that eventually may feature a new city government complex. The cost was $262,500, with the money coming from special purpose local option sales tax revenue, water and sewer money owed to the general fund and general fund reserves.
"What we're really trying to aim at here - and I just thought up this phrase (Wednesday) - is to create an environment of success in Flowery Branch," Andrew said.
He also talked about city limits stretching in different directions, including the Lafarge North America's Friendship Road quarry and newly annexed property at McEver and Gaines Ferry roads.
"People say, ‘You're grabbing property. Why are you doing that?' " Andrew said. "It's because property owners come to us and say, ‘We want to be part of your city. We want to have your sewer. We want to have your regulations.' "
He also addressed the city's population, with current numbers showing the city as having 4,200 residents.
"If you have 3,200 registered voters in your community," Andrew said, referring to another statistic, "you likely have a population number that's considerably larger than 4,200. Again, that just shows the undercount issue with the census."