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Public to give input Tuesday on downtown Statesboro’s future
City of Statesboro seal

Statesboro city staff members and consultants from the TSW firm are hosting a community workshop Tuesday evening for public input on what downtown Statesboro should look like over the next decade and beyond.

The June 8 workshop toward the new Statesboro Downtown Master Plan will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the community room at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Library, 124 South Main St.

The previous downtown master plan, put together by a different consulting firm 10 years ago with a final report completed in 2012, is the one still shown on the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority website,  statesborodowntown.com. City Council in December awarded TSW, an Atlanta-based planning and architectural firm, a contract with a “not to exceed” price of $100,000 to guide development of a new plan.

Since then, the consultants have conducted an online, public survey and interviews of “stakeholders,” such as downtown business representatives, city officials and the DSDA, said Statesboro’s city Planning and Development Director Kathleen Field.

“The consultants have completed their stakeholder interviews, and this now is an opportunity for them to share a summary of their findings and then also to solicit input from the attendees via an interactive exercise,” Field said.

Workshop participants will divide into groups around tables and look at downtown “in terms of different uses such as housing, commercial, transportation, a whole bunch of different factors,” she said.  Each group will report its ideas to the whole assembly.

Field encourages “not only downtown property owners, but people who live in surrounding neighborhoods,” representatives of “churches, everyone” to attend.

The existing plan from 2011-2012 included some proposals that have been realized to some extent, although generally much later than the timelines of up to three years then suggested. Some of the ideas have evolved in unexpected directions. Among other things, the plan called for development of a public event space and a signature downtown park, as well as streetscape improvements.

 

City center zone?

The plan could result in changes to land-use zoning. One idea being considered is to create zoning for the “city center area” with some different guidelines from the overall downtown, Field said.

“Part of the master plan includes looking at a new zoning for what I call the city center area, which includes the old, grid-patterned historic center of the town,” she said. “We felt that that was a good start so that then, based on what the plan says, we could then look at zoning to implement the plan.”

Zoning in this central area could reflect some recent considerations, such as interest in loft apartments or townhomes, she said.

Beyond the central downtown, the overall study area for the master plan extends further down the “Blue Mile” corridor to the original Georgia Southern University entrance.

Another firm, Noell Consulting Group, is looking at whether there is a market for housing and various other property uses downtown, Field said.

Overlapping the timeline for development of the downtown master plan, the city has had the Coastal Regional Commission and Blakely Advisory Group working on elements of a citywide housing study. Information from that study is also being supplied to the downtown master plan consultants as a way to avoid duplicating the work and expense, Field said.

But while the housing study is nearly complete, with a presentation slated for a mayor and council work session next week, work on the Downtown Master Plan is expected to continue into the fall.

So, no draft of the new plan is available at this point. The city has marked a space on the webpage downtownstatesboromasterplan.com for draft plans, but a notice there states that the process is just getting started.

“This meeting Tuesday will also provide input, and then from there they’ll start to draft something that they’ll bring back in the fall to get everyone’s feedback,” Field said.

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