Downtown Thomson will look different in the next several years, and the area east of that should be approved for redevelopment soon. It's part of a comprehensive plan to revitalize the city and bring people back to Thomson for shopping and other activities.
The Downtown Development Authority met last Tuesday to discuss the upcoming changes. Most on the committee -- made up of local business people -- were delighted by the architectural rendering of Thomson's future.
"The concept behind it was what I had really visualized all the time," said Kenneth Usry, Thomson city councilman and chairman of the Downtown Development Authority. "That was the first time I had seen it in drawings, and I was really pleased. I think the community will be proud of it once we get it in place."
What the group saw was an altered photograph of what Athens-based engineering firm Chasman and Associates says can be done to the downtown area using recently acquired transportation grant funds.
The picture showed changes to the sidewalks on Main Street and the addition of six-foot wide, colored textured asphalt pedestrian crossings that resemble red brick pavers.
According to the project description, "the curb and gutter will be moved back to provide a wider vehicle turning radius within the roadway and the sidewalk reconstruction at the intersection will include ramps at the pedestrian crossings."
Other changes to the area include installation of antique-replica street lamps, the removing of overhead wiring and the addition of planters. Also, the 19 on-street parking spaces will be removed because of a lane width requirement. Parking lots on side streets will be expanded to compensate.
"It's time for us to do something to kind of spruce up downtown," said business owner and authority member Andy Knox. "Any time you spruce things up you should get renewed interest and people wanting to come back down here."
Mr. Usry commented that the transportation grant was a slow-moving process. He said the public is 18 months away from seeing the initial changes to downtown.
The authority also discussed the proposed redevelopment zone on the east side of Thomson. Members viewed a revised version of the map and made suggestions about areas that might be included in the designation.
A joint city/county public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 this afternoon at the Depot to discuss the draft of the redevelopment plan.
After hearing from the public, both governments will meet to make a final designation of the redevelopment area that will be sent to the Department of Community Affairs. The designation opens the door for funds to help in the effort.
"You can't sit still. You've got to move forward," Mr. Usry said.