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Lovejoy prepares for new municipal center

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The City of Lovejoy will begin building a new municipal center toward the end of June. The new center, to be erected on Talmadge Road, will replace the city's current city hall, and house a new municipal court and police department.

The estimated cost of the new structure is $2.5 million, said Councilman Tommy Green.

Mayor Joe Murphy said the cost will be finalized Monday night, once the city has a set of plans on which to take action.

Mark Whitley, city engineer for Lovejoy, said the new center will measure 16,000 square feet, include 80 parking spaces, and have a number of environmentally-friendly features, such as natural lighting, and flooring made from recycled materials. He said the new building will help guide the development of downtown Lovejoy.

"It's eco-friendly, but very functional," Whitley said. "Mixing those things together is sometimes difficult, but I think the city has been able to do that, and I think it's something the citizens will be proud of.

"[The new center will be] located in the older section of Lovejoy," Whitley said. "The city hopes to use this to promote the downtown area ... The city is working on a downtown district development ordinance and this is a big part of that."

Whitley said the downtown development ordinance, which would define the city's plans for the area, is expected to be complete by October. Lovejoy City Manager Sebastian Jackson said the municipal center will have at least 30 rooms, including a police conference room; a chamber for the mayor and council; a large lobby; a chamber for a municipal judge; a city manager's office; an engineering and zoning office; and an office for the city council.

He said plans also include a small park in front of the building, an outside lounge area behind the building for people waiting for municipal court, and a walking trail around the building.

The City of Lovejoy established a police department in April of this year. It will begin hiring officers this winter, and Crandall Bray, former chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, will serve as the city's municipal court judge, Jackson said.

He said the new building should be operational in December. He believes it will help the city develop a more recognizable brand. "We are moving from a smaller town into a bigger city," he said. "The city hall represents our city, so we want new businesses to see a city hall that is bigger and better. The location of [the new center] is on Talmadge Road and a block from the Post Office, so we are going to use it to center the city. I think it is going to work for the morale of the city."

Lovejoy City Councilman Tommy Green said the new center will help the city get on board with regional plans for an Atlanta-to-Griffin commuter rail line. He said that once Lovejoy City Hall relocates in December, the city will be able to use its current city hall, on Steele Road, as a commuter rail station.

"The land that the city hall sits on is wide open, and could be used for parking," Green said. "It's the perfect place for commuter rail. The dollars it would cost to retrofit, as opposed to building a new complex, you can't compare. We have a major jump ahead of some other places that would have to infuse a lot of dollars to build something."

Green said he believes the new municipal center will help create "a sense of place" for Lovejoy residents. "We're open to whatever types of improvements we can make to build that town-center feel," he said.