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'A great idea': Camellia Partners buys property on Main Street and First Street

A private non-profit group formed last year to focus on supporting and fostering business in McDuffie County has purchased a block of buildings on Main Street in Thomson in hopes of jump-starting a downtown revitalization.

"It's exciting to know we are moving forward, and we're not going to stop," said Mary Ann Coussons, executive director of Camellia Partners for Heritage and Economic Development, Inc. "That's been part of the problem in the past. ... Things have been started, but we have not had either the funding or the support or the potential to go ahead."

Camellia Partners hopes to change that.

The group purchased several buildings across from The Depot, including the old pools hall and the Hughes Building - which housed the original Bank of Thomson. The group also purchased several buildings along First Avenue, Mrs. Coussons said. They did not disclose the purchase price.

"We knew that these properties ... were up for purchase," she said. "That just seemed like a great area, right downtown to begin the process of Camellia Partners renovation."

Officials plan to revamp the buildings that front Main Street - including cleaning up a storefront damaged by a 2005 cave-in - in hopes of recruiting new tenants. Those tenants, officials hope, will fall in line with what a 2005 University of Georgia survey suggested for the downtown area: businesses like restaurants, or gift and antique shops, among others.

"We've already begun to seek out some businesses to come in here and some people to give us some ideas on what business might flourish down here," she said.

Mrs. Coussons said the buildings along First Avenue would be demolished to make way for parking for the entire downtown area. There's also plans to preserve the old City of Thomson well - which is located behind the First Avenue buildings - and include it as a "historical piece of the parking" project.

Within the next 30-45 days, residents should see tangible signs of renovation on the Camellia Partners' property. Couple that work with a planned streetscape improvement this summer - which is being funded by a state transportation grant, and the look of downtown Thomson will certainly change in the next few months, Mrs. Coussons said.

Aside from its business support activities, Camellia Partners is also working on efforts to kick start the McDuffie Museum and assisting on the heritage component of the Thomson Company project.

"The museum is going to be kind of our gemstone, or our catalyst, for downtown," Mrs. Coussons said. "... We would love to be a Madison. It took them 20 years to get there. It's not going to take us that long. We will be a city that people are proud of from this community."

Web posted on Thursday, May 4, 2006

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