Jonesboro, Forest Park working on LCI

By Ed Brock

There are many things about Jonesboro's proposed Livable Centers Initiative to revitalize the downtown area that please resident Ed Wise.

The green spaces, the fountains and even the parking deck look nice to him.

"It doesn't look like a parking deck, it looks like a building. I like that very much," said Wise.

Wise, who has lived in the city for 15 years, works at Pope Dickson Funeral Home and is a volunteer firefighter for the city, has been following the progress of the plan closely. He was at the final public hearing last week in which the plan that might be approved by the city council next month was presented.

The LCI is a project funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission for several towns in the Atlanta metro area including Jonesboro and Forest Park. The purpose is to make the downtown area in each municipality more attractive with an emphasis on connecting homes, shops and offices and encouraging pedestrian traffic with more access to public transportation options.

Currently the city's consultants at Jordan, Jones & Goulding are putting the finishing touches on the draft of the plan, Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker said.

"When we get the draft we'll hold another meeting for the stakeholders (a kind of steering committee comprised of citizens who have helped design the plan) and make changes before it goes to the council," Walker said.

If the council approves it the plan will go on to the ARC for approval at which time the city will ask for money to begin implementing the plan.

The plan includes a plaza or town green in the area behind the buildings lining Main Street between West Mill and Church Streets and Riley Way. Some current buildings, including the city's old fire station on West Mill, would be removed or turned to face the plaza.

Behind the Heritage Bank on Main Street the city would build a parking deck to replace the parking lost to the plaza with some retail shops in front of it.

On the green space in front of the old county courthouse on McDonough Road they would put a stage or bandstand near the road for special events. Another, larger parking deck would be built near the old courthouse when a commuter rail station comes in.

The commuter rail station would be part of the proposed Macon to Atlanta Rail Corridor that would also have stops in Forest Park, Lovejoy and Hampton and is expected to cost around $351 million.

"If the governor would commit the funds they could have it running in three years," Walker said.

A new county government annex that would help "frame" the square in front of the courthouse, a relocated "Road to Tara" Museum (the current museum is housed in the old train depot that would become part of the commuter rail station), a cultural arts center are also in the plan.

In Forest Park the city council again tabled consideration on approving an engineering company recommended by a committee that included City Manager Bill Werner and other city department heads. The company will undertake an engineering study that is needed before the city can get the $1.5 million in implementation money the ARC has set aside for the city.

Werner said the city would have to provide a $375,000 match for the implementation money, but that, along with the money for the study itself, has already been approved.

"(Jonesboro) is where we were about two years ago," Werner said.