I had the privilege of participating in a great discussion this week concerning the growth, future, and development of downtown Bainbridge. I was asked to be a member of a steering committee to plan and discuss how downtown might look in years to come.
The objective of the committee, along with city staff and facilitators from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, was to shape a Downtown Master and Urban Redevelopment Plan.
Lots of ideas were tossed around relative to what makes a vibrant downtown, what does a vibrant downtown look like, and what steps must be taken to accomplish that ideal result.
Is it more merchants? is it residential lofts and apartments? is it more restaurants that people want? Would more events bring more people downtown? Do residents want daytime or nighttime events?
Those are the type of questions that this committee considered. I don’t know that we came up with any firm answers from the initial meeting, but it was a good start to the discussion.
During the week, the folks from the Carl Vinson Institute met with 12 separate focus groups totaling 80 interested people in the community. I think this is great. Gathering ideas from that many people is bound to yield some great ideas, some far-out ideas, and some ideas that might just not be feasible. But, I am happy that many people were asked for input.
Amanda Glover, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority, is passionate about downtown Bainbridge and its future. And, the Authority Board of Directors includes some long-time downtown business owners and operators. They too, obviously, are interested in the growth and vitality of the downtown area.
You can visit www.downtownbainbridgega.com and take a survey and express your feelings and opinions about the future of downtown.
I applaud the City of Bainbridge and the Downtown Development Authority for taking on this project. Downtown, particularly the square and Willis Park, is a place that we all should be proud of.
But, at the same time, I encourage the city leaders to work just as hard on the non-downtown commercial areas of the city. There is huge opportunity for retail growth in the southern part of the city, on Highway 27 South. While city government does not totally control or influence the decision making of potential retail businesses, we need to apply some of the same efforts being utilized for downtown development to other areas of the city.