Intended to be used by city council and DDA leaders to enhance downtown and encourage private investment, the plan combines past planning efforts, stakeholder input, evaluation of programs and facilities, and the desire to be flexible given that market conditions continually change, according to the executive summary. The plan has been created through a community-based process involving residents, downtown merchants and property owners, DDA board members and elected officials. Input was obtained through surveys, stakeholder meetings and interviews.
Held at Cartersville City Hall, city officials, members of the Downtown Development Authority and business owners discussed more than 15 recommendations laid out in the proposed master plan.
Although some points drew a remark or two and others none, the most debate centered around alcohol and arts.
Under the drafted plan, recommendations were made for city leaders to review existing codes, including alcohol ordinances, for possible changes that could encourage downtown to become a dynamic district for restaurants, retail and nightlife.
Cartersville City Planner Richard Osborne, who led the presentation, said the consideration concerning alcohol stemmed from stakeholder comments and other feedback from the community.
“This was, particular to this question through stakeholder comments and then to a lesser degree it was kind of general comments that people gave on the survey of downtown because there was not a particular question in the downtown survey that the city and DDA conducted,” he said.
DDA Manager Tara Currier pointed to Rome’s block party in 2012 as an example of a successful instance of alcohol allowance — businesses in one block netted more than $70,000 in the course of the evening.
“... While I’m not opposed to alcohol, I guess I look at our downtown area and I say, ... ‘What are we not able to do downtown because there’s not alcohol there?’ And, ‘With the presence of alcohol downtown, is going to be able to make us do what that’s going to benefit the community that we can’t do now?’” Mayor Matt Santini said. “I don’t really know that anyone’s got an answer for that. Honestly, a lot of these things that are part of this master plan would require council approval, and certainly we’ve got, not a divided council, but we’ve got varying opinions on the council about the value or the importance of having more alcohol downtown.”
For Jim Haigler with Haigler Systems Architecture, the idea of event-specific allowances was an option.
“Businesses under the bridge have that Christmas thing ... but different people have wine and cheese or things, but as I understand it now, you could not take a glass of wine out of one store and walk into another store,” he said. “... I think an event like that is limiting possibly the flow of folks, so that would be an occasion I think it might be considered.”
Lara Jeanneret, owner of Lara J Designs and member of the DDA board, agreed.
“It’s more of a specific, special events-type need. It would be very specific to what that event would be; it would not be just a general. It seems like the comments we have heard has been for specific instances where it might be nice to have that,” she said.
The mayor, however, pointed out it’s not always so simple to limit alcohol ordinances on an event-by-event basis.
“Not to get too bogged down on that topic but I think everybody in here pictures how they’d want alcohol used downtown whether it be part of an arts exhibit or an open house or part of a festival,” he said. “The problem is, once you approve it, you kind of throw the paper airplane. You can’t necessarily control [it]; to some degree you can but, by and large, you’ve relinquished a little bit. You can’t say, ‘You can do it, but you can’t.’ It’s applicable across that use and some people may choose to use that in a way you may not like.”
Like alcohol, arts promotions created a stir.
Under the recommendation, “DDA leaders should promote downtown arts in ways such as encouraging art exhibits by adults and school children; encouraging murals; and having tie-in projects with the Booth Museum.”
Jeanneret said the limited explanation in the plan should be expanded and better explain the concept.
“I think that we need to include a lot of different examples of types and how it has been used successful in other small downtowns similar to ours so that people have a good idea of what we are actually talking about,” she said.
Jill Mitchell echoed the statement.
“That we have the ballet downtown, I mean, that’s performing arts. We have The Grand Theatre — that’s arts, we have the art gallery and the Booth Western Art Museum,” she said. “There’s so much art that we can really ... expand our idea of what that means.”
With so many aspects of downtown Cartersville meeting historic preservation guidelines, Daneise Archer with the Historic Preservation Commission said murals were not appropriate for historic buildings while panels that do not harm the building may be utilized.
“... In your murals, you can’t account for taste,” she said. “... There’s got to be some very, very strict provisions.”
Among the other recommendations discussed were:
• The former fire station adjacent to city hall should remain city property and be reused, potentially for special events, offices and/or residential lofts.
• The former police station at the corner of Main and Bartow streets should be sold for redevelopment.
• City leaders should encourage residential development downtown through density bonuses.
• City and DDA leaders should work with various groups — Bartow County, chamber, interested citizens committee, etc. — to plan for one or two parking decks in the next 10 to 20 years.
• DDA leaders should promote downtown to visitors of the LakePoint Sporting Community.
• City leaders should continue to investigate the feasibility of a train whistle quiet zone for the crossings at Cherokee Avenue, Main Street, Leake Street and West Avenue.
A second stakeholder meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. on the third floor of city hall. The plan will be presented to Santini and the city council in the fall, with approval proposed for December. For more information, comment or questions, call Osborne at 770-387-5614.