By Greg Gelpi
Jewel Manley remembers when Upper Riverdale Road was two lanes and mainly wooded with a few country houses.
That was 40 years ago, and efforts are under way to revitalize the busy thoroughfare that is anchored by Southern Regional Medical Center.
"We still like the convenience of it, but the traffic is bad," Manley, who lives across from the hospital, said.
The Upper Riverdale Redevelopment Study found a need to revitalize the 2.3-mile corridor between Tara Boulevard and Ga. Highway 85 and make the area more pedestrian-friendly, said James Crissey, Southern Regional's vice president of facilities and support services.
"The reason we began the study is because we're concerned about the area around Southern Regional," he said.
Among the recommendations made in the study were the needs for more sidewalks and a pedestrian bridge over Upper Riverdale Road, Crissey said.
He said the study concluded a need to improve the area's image, create a pedestrian-friendly environment, provide residential opportunities, develop retail and shopping districts and transform the area into a livable community.
The area has steadily gone down in the past six to seven years and is in desperate need of revitalization, Randy Ransom, who lives on Upper Riverdale Road near the hospital, said.
"First of all, they can buy my house, so I can go," Ransom said. "The area's just getting bad. It's time to go. The only way to get rid of this is to get rid of the houses."
Several of the houses are rental property, and all but a few of the residences on Upper Riverdale are in poor condition, he said. He called the county on a few occasions to have some of the properties cleaned.
Making the area more pedestrian-friendly, though, is a good idea, Ransom said.
"It's dangerous to cross streets even at crosswalks because the traffic moves so fast," he said. "This road carries an awful lot of traffic."
Crissey stressed that the project is still in the concept stage and that the study primarily identified the needs for the area.
"You have to have some sort of concept for the developers to work with," Crissey said. "There's a real opportunity to develop the river area (by the hospital) into some green space and develop some park areas."
An area by the river had been a park, but was paved over and turned into a parking lot, Ransom said.
Plans also includes two gateways, markers at each end of Upper Riverdale Road to designate the corridor; a median and green space, Crissey said. The plan is also to rename the road Riverwalk Parkway.
The public will have the opportunity to comment on the study later this month, said Emory Brock, Clayton County executive director of economic development.
"We're still working on the plan," Brock said. "It hasn't been completed yet."
He said it's important to keep the area around Southern Regional attractive and to attract more developments to the area.