Statesboro City Council on Tuesday awarded more than $286,000 total from the Statesboro Downtown Tax Allocation District, or TAD, fund for two projects planned to create or expand event spaces in the downtown area.
One TAD appropriation, of $135,000, goes to the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, or SCVB, for construction of a boardwalk, expanded picnic area and footbridge behind the Main Street Farmers Market event building at the back of the Visitors Center property, 222 South Main.
Although this is the first TAD money awarded to the SCVB, the work that it funds is considered a part of the overall project that also created the Farmers Market facility by transforming a former warehouse. When added to the cost of the previous work, which was bank financed and is being paid for by the SCVB with a special allotment hotel-motel tax revenue, the TAD funding boosts the total investment in the project to $1,071,512.
The other TAD appropriation approved Tuesday morning, $151,193, goes to West District Events OZ Business LLC to cover “unanticipated cost increases associated with access and safety elements” of the already TAD-assisted development in the West District, according to a city staff memo to the mayor and council. Total investment in that project is reported in the city memo as $1,593,750, excluding the new TAD request, which would increase the total to more than $1.74 million. But most of that has been spending by the private investors.
The previous TAD award for the overall West District development, which is located on South College Street, was $188,365 in February 2020. But these grants take the form or reimbursements for actual expenses, and only a portion of that amount has been spent after more than two years, prompting city officials to put an 18-month time limit in both of the new TAD-funding contracts.
Footbridge by April
Becky Davis, executive director of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, indicated that the bureau expects to see its boardwalk, footbridge and picnic area completed in a much shorter timespan than 18 months.
“We are so excited to move forward with these additions and are very grateful for the support of the TAD Committee, City Council and the city staff,” Davis said in an email. “Connecting to the Willie McTell Trail has been one of our goals for many years, and we know it will enhance the entire downtown experience for both visitors and locals. It should be open and ready to kick off the 2023 Farmers Market season next April.”
Black Creek Construction, a Bryan County-based firm that specializes in structures such as wooden bridges and docks and previously built the footbridge at Statesboro’s Shelby Park in the Edgewood neighborhood, has been contracted by the SCVB to build a gently curving boardwalk, starting from two spots behind the Farmers Market building and connecting to footbridge to be built over the Little Lotts Creek tributary.
The walkway and bridge will lead to the existing, paved Blind Willie McTell Trail.
In the TAD funding application, the costs of the bridge and walkway were estimated at $120,250 and of the new picnic areas as $15,390, for a total of $136,640.
A different company, St. Andrews Builders, based in Statesboro, designed the overall project and served as general contractor for the previous transformation of the warehouse into the Main Street Farmers Market event building. It has been in use for the Farmers Market on Saturdays since the 2022 season opening.
City Council members wanted to know if the facility is being made available for other events.
“We have our first rental this Friday night,” Davis said after the meeting. “It’s actually a sorority event, but we already have a wedding planned in November, a wedding reception in late October and a wedding rehearsal dinner in early December. We have a church hoedown this coming Monday night, and we’re giving tours daily for people who are interested in renting it.”
The Statesboro Downtown TAD advisory committee, with members appointed by both the city and the county, had met Sept. 15 and unanimously recommended both projects. But approval by City Council, as well as the committee’s recommendation, are required for funding. The council also unanimously approved both.
This story will be expanded with more information on the West District project for Thursday’s edition.