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Plans for development in downtown Thomson come into focus

Thomson Mayor Bob Knox is excited about the changes taking place in downtown. Over the next decade, officials hope to have a district attractive to locals, shoppers and tourists alike.

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Thomson Mayor Bob Knox discussed various developments in downtown Thomson during last Thursday's Rotary club meeting.

Mayor Knox shared the multi-faceted revitalization plan with the Thomson Rotary Club last Thursday.

"That's a lot to be put on our plate, but I want you to be thinking about that," he told club members. "We want to get your thoughts and ideas on it."

One of the keys to that plan, he said, is the McDuffie Museum located in the former First Bank Building that is currently undergoing a $2 million fundraising campaign.

The other key is a joint city-county government complex that will be built with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars sometime in the next five years. The tentative location was publicly announced for the first time Thursday.

In January of 2005, Atlanta-based consultant Jud Bryant shared his comprehensive plan for a complex that would outlast both governments' needs for the next few decades. At the Rotary meeting, Mayor Knox said plans call for the complex to go on a block of Railroad Street between Greenway and Cleveland Streets.

"It's obviously going to cost a lot of money and will be the subject of the next sales tax proposal," Mayor Knox said.

Another part of the plan is to make downtown a destination for shoppers. To do that, work on the streetscape beautification from a Transportation Enhancement Grant will begin later this year.

Also, Camellia Partners for Heritage and Economic Development - a private non-profit group - has begun purchasing downtown properties to help foster growth in the area and make way for parking near the museum and existing businesses.

"That's what makes this part of our plan able to be done," Mayor Knox said.

The Thomson City Council recently set up its own Historic Commission to assist in the efforts, he said. The commission will oversee the use of historic buildings in town and decide on plans to refurbish them.

The entire revitalization plan was rooted in the Uniroyal plant closing some 25 years ago, according to Mayor Knox. After that closing, Thomson had a 22 percent unemployment rate and needed to use its assets to change that, he said.

Leaders focused attention on the interstate at the expense of downtown. The current plans are aimed at rebuilding that town center.

"It's a very ambitious project, but it's one we can and will do, and we will do it well," Mayor Knox said.



Web posted on Thursday, June 1, 2006













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