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Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 2:52pm

Boomtown Project Helps Historic Downtowns

Representatives of six historic downtown areas in Georgia are gathering in Rome this week to learn about luring economic development. It’s part of a new state program.

Boomtown is a pilot program to create more jobs in Columbus, Cordele, Elijay, Jefferson, Madison and Woodstock.

Annaka Woodruff with the Department of Community Affairs, says they are training officials how to speak to bankers, realtors and developers.

“So that they can then enter into the conversation as advocates and as participants when we’re talking about redeveloping
our downtown.”

John Ward, City Manager of Jefferson, says officials haven’t focused on the opportunities of the second and third floors of downtown buildings.

“This is teaching people how to maximize the use of the ground floor for retail examples and then how to bring in customers for the retail by creating urban loft living in the upstairs.”

Special Projects Manager Billy Parrish says they are excited about a survey done last summer by the National Association of Realtors.

“38 percent of those surveyed are interested, very much so, in living in a more walkable dynamic in town environment. So what we’re trying to do is take this amazing opportunity that we have with Georgia’s downtowns and connect it with market demand. And in doing so, really spur on job creation.”

Rehabilitating downtowns into vibrant communities can be a complicated process, and officials hope by learning how such development deals work, they can be better advocates to lure developers.

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