Jonesboro looking for development authority member

By Ed Brock

The Jonesboro Downtown Development Authority is looking for someone who wants to help shape the future of the city.

A member of the authority's seven-member board of directors, Frank Potts, is stepping down and the city is looking for somebody to take his place, said Kathryn Lookofsky, Jonesboro's director of downtown development. The authority is responsible for promoting events like the city's concert series, a "clean up" day on Oct. 15, raising money for "facade grants" and "sign grants" and otherwise doing things to promote new development in the downtown area.

"It's a big responsibility but it's also an exciting opportunity to serve your community," Lookofsky said.

The new authority member must be either a tax-paying resident of the city or a tax-paying resident of the county who owns or operates a business located in the city's downtown development area. It is a volunteer position and the city council will approve the new appointment.

Existing members of the board are Ab Dickson, Suzanne Igler, Susie McCray, Wes Hargrave, Jeff Maday and Sharon Schilling.

"I've really enjoyed it," McCray said of her service on the authority that was formed in January.

The most difficult part of the authority's job is finding "people of vision," McCray said.

"If we don't take care of the future and make sure Jonesboro is going the way we want it to, somebody else will."

McCray said she thinks the free concert series has been a very positive thing for bringing people downtown.

"That's our job, to bring people downtown," McCray said.

Dickson said he's very happy with the progress the authority has made with the "streetscape" project that will transform the appearance of the city's Main Street. The authority hopes to make a float for this year's Christmas Parade that will show what the project will do.

As for bringing retail businesses to Main Street which is now dominated by law offices, Dickson says people who say retail can't succeed in downtown Jonesboro need the right perspective.

"Some of the people who say that just haven't lived here that long," Dickson said.

They don't remember the time before the 1960s when attorneys began moving downtown to be close to the county courthouse that was located across the street at that time. Now the courts are in the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Tara Boulevard so Dickson expects the attorneys to begin moving their offices closer to that location.

Then it will be a matter of what kind of retail business will come in. Dickson thinks specialty shops and gift shops will do well, especially if a planned commuter rail line does come through the city.

"We're intending for people to come to Jonesboro for the day from other destinations like conventions (in Atlanta) because Jonesboro is such a great tourist stop for one day," Dickson said.

Even if the commuter rail fails to materialize, Dickson said the city is working with tour bus companies to bring more tours to the city.

For more information on the downtown development authority and for an application go to www.JonesboroGa.com or call Lookofsky at (770) 478-3800. Completed applications must be submitted by Oct. 31.