On Thursday, December 13th, TSW & Associates presented the master plan for the U.S. 278 Corridor, based on six months of studies and community participation. The final recommendations were delivered at a public meeting at the The Center for Community Preservation and Planning in Covington, Georgia, county seat of Newton County.
Newton County and Covington have embarked on a long-term pro-active project that will shape the way the community grows. The focus is the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the U.S. 278 Corridor, which stretches a half-mile on either side of the highway, from exit 90 to the Alcovy River.
The master plan envisions a city full of bustling community centers, which encompass retail and residential space that pedestrians, drivers and cyclists can all safely navigate. The plan is designed to address transportation, land use, environmental and economic investments and enhancements along the corridor, which stretches a half-mile on either side of the highway.
One of the major recommendations was to split the main corridor into eight “centers” based on a quarter-mile walk from the core. The project team suggests utilizing the large lots, such as Martin’s Crossing, for mixed-use development.
“There is an opportunity to do something really different here,” said Caleb Racicot, project manager with Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh. “We found that there is a strong demand for more high-end retail and more retail in general. You could create a more ‘Main Street’ feel by having store frontage along U.S. 278 and parking internally.”
This sort of “new urbanism” plan allows for big box retail to build at the site when Wal-Mart abandons its current location, along with increasing the housing options along the proposed multi-use greenway trail. As one passes by, he or she would no longer see a vast parking lot, but instead be lured into the center by the many stores lining the federal highway.
“It’s set up in a more street-friendly fashion,” Racicot said. “It would create a sense of place that would otherwise be Anyplace, U.S.A.”
Other retail suggestions included putting a new movie theater near Kmart, a spot designated as the gateway to the community.
Restaurants also make for a natural choice due to the prime location near the interstate. Amending the existing alcohol control laws by removing the requirement of 50 seats to own a beer/wine license would invite more businesses to the area, according to Racicot.