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Downtown Boards goal: Revitalization
Authority adds four new Board members
W Biz downtown
Pictured above, left to right, Richard Toms, Wesley Parker, Becky Hart, Charles Brown and Allen Muldrew, executive director of the Downtown Authority. - photo by JAN MOORE/staff
      The Downtown Statesboro Development Authority (DSDA) recently installed four new board members - each with a slightly different perspective regarding priorities for the continued redevelopment of downtown.
       "In a broad sense, all the citizens of Bulloch County have a stake in downtown Statesboro," said local attorney Charles Brown, one of the organization's new board members. "It is the core of the apple. A healthy city leads to a healthy county. You start with your downtown and work outward."
       Brown said he is particularly interested and encouraged by streetscape project that just began on East Main Street.
       "I think the streetscape is going to be wonderful," he said. "My hope, however, is that it will not be so gradual. We really need to push for more streetscape work to be done on North, South, and West Main Streets. I think it is very important to downtown."
       Other new board members include, Becky Hart, owner of Party Impressions on West Main, Richard Toms, owner of 119 Chops on West Main, and Wesley Parker, owner of Parker Engineering on Courtland Street.
       Hart's business is celebrating its tenth anniversary on West Main. She is also optimistic about the streetscape project.
       "I understand that there is money available to do the same thing with West Main that is being done with East Main and I think that is very important," she said. "Sometimes we forget that Statesboro is a shopping hub for many that live in our surrounding counties. We need to make it as attractive as possible to lure people downtown. This is a very important piece of that."
       Parker and his family live on Savannah Avenue. He would really like to see a focus placed on developing downtown as a place to live in addition to shopping.
       "The theme that I have heard from this board is to live, work, and play in downtown," he said. "The more people that live in the downtown area, the more vibrant it will be. I hope people that own property in downtown will see the benefit of turning it into living space. It helps everybody."
       Parker said he also has an interest in some of the design challenges facing the organization and the Unified Planned Development Code that is being developed by the city.
       "As downtown continues to redevelop, there will opportunities to help in the design of that redevelopment from streetscape type projects onward," he said. "I hope to be able help with that and lend some expertise. I am very interested it that aspect."
       Parker said he and his fellow board members are very interested in the development and passing of the new code.
       "There needs to be guidelines for downtown development," he said. "I know that it is being worked on, and I hope that it will be developed, presented, and adopted. It is in the best interest of downtown and citizens of Statesboro."
       The East Main streetscape project is scheduled to last nine months according to Allen Muldrew, the DSDA's executive director.    "The streetscape will be on both sides of East Main between its intersection with North and South Main down to the railroad tracks at the Gas Light Crossing development," Muldrew said. "There will be pavers instead of concrete sidewalks and the utility lines will be buried. In addition there will be new light fixtures and benches. It should be very, very nice. It is a wonderful start, and will show people what downtown would look like if all four Main streets could be redone."
       Richard Toms, the fourth new board member, said he is very hopeful that monies will be allocated for the West Main project.
       "I hope eventually that our side will be done," he said. "Downtown has so much potential, and that is why we put 119 Chops down here. I would be thrilled with its continued redevelopment. I just think that it is real important that we generate some momentum and interest, and that progress doesn't stop with East Main."
       The DSDA is hosting the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce's business after hours this Thursday afternoon from 5-6:30 p.m. at its new office on Seibald Street. "The theme is 'Get a taste of what's available for lunch downtown!'," Muldrew said. "We have a very vibrant downtown, and this is a great opportunity to showcase what is here."
       Muldrew said he is optimistic that some of the restaurants that have closed downtown will reopen. "There is a tremendous amount of interest that has been demonstrated, so I feel like sooner than later we will see new restaurants operating in downtown. There is certainly the demand for them."
       The DSDA board is made up of nine members. The other five members are Chris Mitchell, Mike Bowen, Dotty Lanier, Debra Chester, and Todd Branyon.

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