The city of Clarkesville in Habersham County is developing a long-term master plan for its downtown square, eight months after a fire damaged four buildings.
“The Clarkesville square is very alive and vibrant. Since the fire, several new businesses have opened on the square,” said Habersham County Chamber of Commerce President Judy Taylor.
Sweet Breads, a restaurant in downtown Clarkesville, was destroyed in the March 6 fire.
The estimated 100-year-old building that housed Sweet Breads has been torn down, with three buildings damaged in the fire being purchased by the city.
Since the fire, Clarkesville City Manager Barbara Kesler said the occupancy of the downtown area has jumped above 90 percent.
“Probably every business has either found an office somewhere else … but the people who were affected by the fire have relocated if they wanted their business to continue,” Taylor said.
Clothing stores, restaurants and other businesses have opened in the last eight months, with some affected by the fire moving to other parts of the square.
“Spaces that once were vacant are not vacant any longer,” Kesler said.
The city of Clarkesville has hired the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and a consulting firm to develop a master plan for how best to use the downtown space. Upward of 25 focus groups have been held over several months on what the next steps should be.
“The decision hasn’t been made yet whether or not it’s best to restore or tear down and build anew,” Kesler said.
Each of the four different committees that make up the Main Street program, Kesler said, will take on a separate part of the master plan for its goals in 2015.
“We’re probably looking at two years before a new space is online,” Kesler said.
The buildings, Kesler, will most likely come online in phases.