Planners get input on LCI project

By Ed Brock

There are many things that can cause a community to fail, said city planner Ellen Keys to a packed house of Jonesboro residents at a public hearing in the city's fire station.

The wrong attitude can be one of them.

"You can't say it's too expensive, you can't say it's not done that way, you can't say it'll never happen," Keys said.

Around 60 people came to hear Keys and Jim Summerbell, both with the Jordan, Jones & Goulding consulting company based in Norcross, talk about the city's Livable Centers Initiative project.

Funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the LCI includes redesigning Jonesboro's downtown area and the city itself to make it a more attractive place to live. That includes functional changes like more sidewalks and proper placement of complementary facilities along with simple beautification.

"Design must fit functionality," Keys said.

The meeting, one of several to be held as the LCI plan is developed, was very successful, Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker said.

"We got a lot of input," Walker said. "It was more about people coming in and saying these are the things we like about Jonesboro and these are the things that could be better."

On July 28 the city will hold a lunch for downtown property owners and on Sept. 5 there will be a design workshop, possibly to be held at the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro.

"We'll actually design different aspects right then," Walker said.

The plan should be finished by November and ready to present to the ARC for approval by mid-December, Walker said.

Money to pay for the renovations would come from an ARC grant. The actual cost would depend on what is selected.

"I'm anxious to see the plan in November," said Linda Wenz, Jonesboro resident and member of the LCI steering committee.

Wenz was impressed by Summerbell and Keys' presentation.

"They knew we wanted the small town atmosphere but we want it to be a better utilized city," Wenz said.

Keys' presentation was motivational, fellow steering committee member Ab Dickson said.

"We had better input from the community than ever before," Dickson said. "I think she got out of the people more ideas than they had before."

More sidewalks and common meeting areas were some of the changes Wenz suggested. Dickson wants to see an improvement to the "gateways" to the city, something to encourage people to come in.

"I especially like the idea of neighborhood parks, parks in every established neighborhood of the city," Dickson said.

It's important to give the community a sense of character and uniqueness, Keys said. It's also important to give people a "third place."

Their first place is home, their second place is work, but Keys said the third place for people is a public gathering place.

"That's why people are so drawn to these small towns where people walk up and down sidewalks," Keys said.

Keys had other suggestions for the gathered crowd, such as triangulation, putting things together where they are easy to access.

"If the playground is next to the library and there's a kiosk there that sells hot dogs, it's a bonanza for everybody," Keys said.

But in the end, Keys said, she could only make suggestions.

"The only people who can create a place in Jonesboro are the people who live here," Keys said. "You're the ones who are the experts."