Downtown Development Authority envisioning future of downtown

Published 7:43am Friday, August 23, 2013

By ASHLEY JOHNSON

Managing Editor 

Imagine downtown Bainbridge, its historical brick buildings and its square, with even more amenities, shopping, living spaces and foot traffic. Picture plush pads and more green space parks for children and a lively nightlife on the square.

These are all elements the city could see arrive within the next several years as the city participates in a program aimed at reviving downtown living. Bainbridge was the first city in the state selected for a pilot program sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association, which includes urban redevelopment and a drive for residents to live, work and play, all downtown.

Experts in downtown renaissance ventures say Bainbridge not only has plenty of potential, but also is ahead of the curve in many regards on redevelopment compared to surrounding cities.

“In Bainbridge you have this absolutely beautiful square, a great building stock, great housing around the downtown, Flint River park, you are close to Tallahassee – so there are so many positives already,” said Danny Bivins with the Vinson Institute of Government, who is working with the Bainbridge Downtown Development Authority on the revamping project. “We want the public to tell us what more of those positives are.”

Bivins said the approach made by the pilot program is to first get input from the public and residents of Bainbridge on their own city. The community will be asked what assets can be utilized, as well as the problems that need solutions because, “each community knows their issues better than an outsider and they also know their solutions better too,” Bivins said.

The Bainbridge Downtown Development Authority is asking residents to visit their website and fill out a suggestion form, informing the committees of what the overall vision should be for the redevelopment. The tips sent in are anonymous and drive the redevelopment into the hands of the community.

“This is their downtown, their community so what is going to bring them downtown, what stores do they want to see here,” Amanda Glover, director for the Bainbridge DDA asked. Glover said she wants to see Bainbridge’s downtown grow into what it used to be —a place where people worked, played and lived all in one downtown area. Glover said she and those working with her at the DDA need the public’s input to be able to do so.

Those interested can visit www.downtownbainbridgega.com and give their suggestions of what would bring them downtown more to eat and shop.

The DDA and other groups, Glover said, are in discussions about local tax incentives for rehabilitating downtown buildings and historic structures in addition to state incentives in attempts to move more activity downtown.

Bivins said he is looking for input on where people are shopping today and why they are shopping there. These are suggestions and questions he has asked people in downtown areas all over the state for the same program.

A master plan was just completed for Rome, Ga., Cedar Town and even Bainbridge’s next-door neighbor Cairo just wrapped up their master plan creation for redeveloping downtown.

But Bivins boasts that once things are completed with Bainbridge, the first city selected for urban redevelopment, the town will be a model for other cities to copy.

“I know a lot of other communities that would want to be Bainbridge,” Bivins said. “Downtown Bainbridge already has all of the necessary infrastructure in place to be successful. They already have a DDA, a DDA director; they are already ahead of the curve with other communities and downtown places in Georgia.”

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