Officials have been in the process of developing the plan, which is still in draft form, for the past six months and hope to have an adopted version by year’s end.
“Downtown is built on a firm foundation, which is the result of strong, collaborative leadership. Since its beginnings in the early 1980s, Downtown Development Authority representatives have worked with community leaders to initiate revitalization projects and encourage private investment. However, there have not been efforts, at least in the last 10 years, to complete a master plan for downtown,” City Planner Richard Osborne said. “The Cartersville Downtown Master Plan 2024 combines past planning efforts, stakeholder input, evaluation of programs and facilities, and the desire to be flexible given that market conditions continually change. ... The plan has been created through a community-based process involving residents, downtown merchants and property owners, DDA board members and elected officials.”
According to the executive summary, survey results and comments helped create a list of proposed recommendations. Among them:
• The former Cartersville Fire Department Fire Station No. 1, which sits adjacent to City Hall, should remain property of the city and be reused, potentially for special events, offices or residential lofts.
• The former Cartersville Police Department facility at the corner of Main and Bartow streets should be sold for redevelopment.
• City leaders should continue to investigate the feasibility of a train whistle quiet zone for the crossings of Cherokee Avenue, Main Street, Leake Street and West Avenue.
• City leaders should continue to encourage commercial truck traffic to use routes around downtown by means such as added signage.
The list goes on.
For Osborne, the fire and police facility recommendations stand out as a priority.
“Now that the fire and police departments are located in the Public Safety Headquarters on Cassville Road, city leaders are concerned about the former fire and police stations downtown. A majority of stakeholders recommended that the former fire station and lot remain city property,” he said.
The former station was constructed around 1916, with the rear portion added in the 1970s. According to the draft plan, the short-term goal includes improving the rear portion to be used for special events, including the DDA’s upcoming bluegrass festival this fall.
“The former police station [at the corner of Main and Bartow streets] was also evaluated,” Osborne said.
Serving as a gateway to downtown from the west, the location defines and reinforces features that create a sense of arrival in downtown.
“This gateway is important because it creates a visual footprint of character — it is usually the first experience for the visitor when entering downtown after having driven through the historic West End residential area,” Osborne said. “A majority of stakeholders stated that the structure, built in the 1960s, did not contribute significantly to the character of downtown and could be sold for private redevelopment.”
In the short term, however, the former police headquarters will be used for municipal court and local probation services.
Also included in the public properties portion of the master plan are the areas around the Church Street Bridge and Fountain Park.
For the bridge, recommendations included improved lighting and sidewalks, which are on the project list for the 2013-2017 Cartersville Short Term Work Program using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds. Fountain Park should be included in the pedestrian feel of Friendship Plaza, according to the plan.
By having the master plan in place, the city hopes to reduce barriers to development and coordinate efforts to improve the city’s downtown area.
“City and DDA leaders are encouraged to review various tools and powers to encourage private investment downtown. By having an adopted Downtown Master Plan, the city of Cartersville or Downtown Development Authority may be eligible for additional grants or other funding sources. Any program or incentive would be reviewed by the city attorney and would need to be approved by council,” Osborne said. “The plan encourages leaders to review all potential means to reduce barriers to development. Successful implementation depends on cooperative efforts between downtown merchants and property owners, local leaders and citizens. By having a plan in place for 2024, interested community leaders, merchants, property owners and residents can hopefully work in coordination toward improving downtown Cartersville.”
The draft covers a number of other areas, such as the Downtown Development Authority, linking LakePoint to downtown, general areas of recommendation, the arts and expanding the downtown business district.
Despite a 2024 date, the plan builds the foundation for future developments and growth.
“... The goal of creating the plan was, based on stakeholder input, to determine priority revitalization projects for downtown,” Osborne said. “Between now and 2024, city and DDA leaders will determine the specific projects on the list of recommendations that should be completed sooner rather than later.”
“Since 1990, Bartow County has nearly doubled — total 2013 county population is just over 100,000 and Cartersville has approximately 20,000 residents. In the 2000s, community leaders, downtown merchants and property owners have renovated structures, improved infrastructure and opened businesses catering to after-hours demands,” he added. “... Much of what the city of Cartersville is today, and will be in the future, is based on a firm foundation. It is essential that city and Downtown Development Authority leaders plan for ways to continually improve downtown so that it remains the thriving center of the community.”
The draft of the plan will be presented to DDA board members later this month. Two stakeholders meetings also will be held in August to discuss the draft. Osborne said the document will be presented to Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini and the city council in the fall, with the final plan to be adopted by the council before the end of the year.
For more information, comment or questions, call Osborne at 770-387-5614.