The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featured the downtown revitialization plan Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates is working on for Avondale Estates, a small city east of Atlanta, Georgia.
Small town looking at ambitious 10-year plan
Nancy Yang – Staff
Thursday, July 8, 2004
Downtown Avondale Estates soon could be in for a major change.
A 10-year downtown revitalization plan could be adopted by the Avondale Estates City Commission in the next few months, paving the way for what some residents, business owners and city officials say is much-needed growth and revitalization.
“When I got here, I drove around and saw the city,” City Manager Warren Hutmacher said. “I saw vacant businesses. . . . I thought that needed to change.”
The latest draft was presented at a public hearing June 29 by Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates, the design and architecture company hired by the city to produce the plan.
A centerpiece of the plan is the relocation and extension of Franklin Street to become downtown’s new main street. Franklin Street runs parallel to North Avondale Road, the current main road.
All along North Avondale Road are empty businesses. At one stretch, four are side by side.
Franklin Street is no better, some say, because it has no sidewalk and there’s not much there, business or residential.
Pamela Burgess, who owns the Professional Touch Hair Salon on North Avondale Road, said the area looks abandoned.
The plan calls for Franklin Street to be pedestrian-friendly, with sidewalks, shops and green space.
The plan also calls for downtown Avondale Estates to feature:
> 73,000 square feet of new retail/restaurant space, mostly for specialty shops.
> 75,000 square feet of new office space.
> 1.51 acres of new park space.
> At least 250 more residential units.
The number of new housing units and businesses has concerned some, particularly longtime Avondale residents.
An original plan produced in April called for 600 residential units, but Hutmacher said residents told the city that was unacceptable.
“They were concerned about density and voting dilution . . . a fear that new people might not be so supportive of current issues . . . and that they would lose control over the city,” he said.
At the same time, many residents have expressed that they don’t want to lose the city’s small-town flavor. Avondale Estates’ population is about 2,600.
Likewise, several residents have questioned whether such a small community can support more businesses, or whether businesses even want to come to such a small town.
A final draft, complete with how the city plans to pay for the revitalization and how much it is expected to cost, will be presented to the Board of Commissioners later this month.
Hutmacher said the city already has begun looking at possible funding sources, particularly state grants and tax allocation district financing, which uses incremental tax revenue to pay for those improvements.
The city is considering making downtown a tax allocation district. That would allow the city to issue bonds for public improvements. The debt is paid with money generated through rising commercial property values in the district. If the plan is approved, the city’s Downtown Development Authority can begin raising money for the project, Hutmacher said. The first phase of the project would be focused on Franklin Street.
La Piccolina bakery owner Olympia Manning, whose business is on Franklin Street, said the city needs to make sure it strikes a balance between the number of residents and businesses. “I stress moderation,” she said.
Project Video owner Tarriel Covington, whose business is in the Tudor Village, said the city needs the revitalization plan to make Avondale Estates more appealing.
“The city is not a draw,” he said.
Covington is also president of the Avondale Business Association. He said the city needs an anchor, something that will make people want to come there.
Hutmacher said a possible anchor could be moving in right now.
The Academy Theatre, one of the oldest professional theaters in Georgia, on July 1 began the process of moving into the old Tomahawk Printing Co. building behind the Tudor Village.
Managing director Lorenne Fey said the theater’s long-term goals include a performing arts school and a 200-seat performance space in the building. The theater should open by the end of the year, Hutmacher said.
Mayor Jerry McCumber said the addition of the theater should spur more restaurants and other businesses to the downtown because it will draw more visitors to the area.