This past week, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority held its annual meeting in the new banquet facility of the Quality Inn and Suites on South Main Street. Hosted by outgoing board chairman Chris Mitchell, the meeting seemed to me to represent a new phase in the continuing effort to revitalize downtown.
Four of the five new board members installed are relatively new to the downtown “scene” with one downtown veteran Mary Ann Franklin completing the group. In addition to Franklin, the new board members are Per Holtze (owner, Quality Inn and Suites), Nick Propps (realtor, Manack Signature Properties), Jeremy Ragan (vice president and Statesboro branch manager, Queensborough National Bank and Trust), and April Stafford (partner, Stafford and Barr). Franklin is the owner of Designs by Five.
In his remarks to the crowd, Mitchell said that the authority’s board is a very engaged one which is what it will take to get downtown back on the track it was on just a few short years ago.
I remember a very poignant remark that former city manager George Wood said to me about five years ago. Wood said as far as development goes, the market will determine the value and use of properties in the downtown area, and that government has no interest in that.
In a perfect world, that may be the case, but I would argue that Savannah, Augusta, Columbus, and Atlanta didn’t wait for that die to be irreversibly cast. Redevelopment initiatives greatly enhanced and possibly saved their downtowns much to the benefit of city and county residents.
What I sensed at that meeting this past Tuesday was yet another rededication to the revitalization of downtown, and that the group would continue to work for and push for what is necessary to make that happen.
I liked what I heard about the board being a passionate and determined one with a very positive outlook, because that is what it is going to take. We all need to step back and say to ourselves that we can “have our cake and eat it too.” We can have a prosperous Mall area, a prosperous Market District area, and a prosperous downtown, to the detriment of no one, and to the benefit of everyone. In fact, they can clearly compliment one another.
I would encourage you to thank any of these new board members for taking on a difficult role as this is an extremely important time for our downtown. As they like to say on talk radio, this could be a “game changer.”
So, until next Tuesday, I bid you au revoir.
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