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Officials finalize downtown plan

It may just be the start of things, but all the work that Thomson and McDuffie County officials have done to prepare for a redevelopment effort will soon begin to show dividends.

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Both governments met jointly at Thomson City Hall on Tuesday night -- the third time in recent weeks the plan has been publicly discussed -- to formally approve the comprehensive redevelopment plan and establish boundaries for the area in eastern Thomson to be rehabilitated.

It was the culmination of months of work toward evoking the state's redevelopment act. Now, officials face five to seven years of redevelopment efforts, but they are happy with the scope of their plan.

"The thing that strikes me ... is the number of things that are going on in this area that come under the same umbrella," said Thomson Mayor Bob Knox last Thursday at a public hearing about the plan.

At last week's hearing, elected officials, city and county employees and citizens showed up to learn more about the redevelopment plan. The public information session was also aimed at gathering input on the multiple projects that both governments have on the table.

City Administrator Bob Flanders conducted the hour-long public meeting in which each component of the joint city/county plan was explained. He said it is the only joint city/county redevelopment plan in the state that he is aware of.

The plan consists of three main components -- a transportation improvement grant to enhance the Main Street area, a redevelopment zone mostly in eastern Thomson and the proposed government complex in the downtown area.

Officials also shared information on several other projects in the near future such as applications in the works for housing grants and cleanup of the old Thomson Company industrial area.

"It should be a big boost to our industrial activity," Mayor Knox said prior to Tuesday's approval of the plan.

The move to renovate the old Thomson Company building will serve to "jumpstart" the redevelopment efforts and stabilize the historic site, said Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers at last week's Industrial Development Authority meeting.

So far, the negative comments about the plan have been few. Robert Hughes, owner of the Hughes Building on Main Street, questioned officials about the elimination of parking spaces on the roadway downtown during the public hearing.

Pat Mahoney of the engineering firm Chasman and Associates who designed the t-grant changes, said parking will be added in lots along side streets to encourage shoppers to walk through the area instead of hitting only the store they park in front of.

"I think it's great to have the potential that we apparently are going to have," Mr. Hughes said of the plan. "I hate to see the parking places taken off, but you know, for the betterment of everything, if they have to go, they have to go."

Clerk of Superior Court Connie Cheatham questioned leaders on timelines for the government complex, which includes new court rooms. County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said construction was still five to six years away.

The cleanup of several "slum and blight" areas was also discussed at the meeting. Three neighborhoods will move up the state's list for housing rehab Community Development Block Grants now that the redevelopment zone has been approved.

The neighborhoods for which Thomson will apply for CDBG funding include the area that runs the length of Martin Luther King, Jr. Street, east to Gordon Street and west nearly to Main Street.

Also included is the neighborhood off Harrison Road, southeast of Norris Elementary School. The final area included begins with the Pitts Street area and extends south along Jackson Street, then along Forrest Clary Drive to Hwy. 78 and back along Watson Street.

Staff Writer Jerrie MacIntire contributed to this article.



Web posted on Thursday, February 24, 2005











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