Downtown master plan one of DDA’s goals

Published 8:51 am Friday, July 5, 2013

Amanda Glover

Amanda Glover

Developing a master plan for downtown Bainbridge is one way the city’s Downtown Development Authority is working to strengthen the city’s core.

Speaking at the Bainbridge City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, DDA Executive Director Amanda Glover said Bainbridge has been invited to be a pilot city for the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Strategic Visioning plan.

The project, an initiative of the Georgia Deparment of Community Affairs, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation, would provide a $6,500 grant toward developing a master plan for downtown, with the DDA paying a remainder of the cost.

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At the council’s most recent annual retreat, Glover explained to the Council that “the purpose of developing a downtown master plan is to counteract the impact of lost retail, revitalize its historic core, as well as to make downtown Bainbridge an exciting destination.”

Glover said the DDA is developing and revising a prospective business recruitment packet. She said she is working on adding economic data, such as what the typical square footage of a downtown property costs to rent or buy, what the University’s Small Business Development Center can do for a prospective business and how much daily vehicle traffic there is on downtown streets.

“We’re working with the SBDC on a market analysis, so we can see what we have and what it is we need, so we know who we need to go recruit,” Glover said.

Among the ideas of the master plan are:

• Adding downtown signage and gateway signs along Calhoun and Shotwell streets, to create unique landscaping and entryways into the city.

• Expanding second-floor residential offerings downtown

• Taking an inventory of façade needs — any building that doesn’t have facade rendering, DDA can pay $75 to have a design firm generate one. Since 2006, the DDA has awarded $27,036 in façade grants to help downtown businesses re-paint their front exterior, add or replace awnings, and make other improvements.

• Using new media, promoting the DDA’s Facebook page through giveaways and adding QR codes — scannable by smartphones — which direct interested people to a Web site which lists the history of a vacant downtown building, associated contact information, rental rate, historic photos of property.

• Combating the perception that there is no downtown parking. The downtown Bainbridge area has more than 450 parking spaces, Glover said.

• Connecting inside streets to existing Phase I and II Streetscape projects.

• Holding an “Opportunity Night,” which would be an open house for downtown buildings to show realtors and others what is available.

• Creating stronger partnerships with Bainbridge State College and Memorial Hospital, for the potential usage of downtown properties.

The DDA’s vision/mission statement is “To create a desirable, vibrant and thriving shopping atmosphere by encouraging community awareness of the importance of downtown as the most vital economic force in the city.”