By Valerie Baldowski
Two Southern Crescent cities are due to receive a total of $180,000 to help finance studies on how to plan their future development.
Hampton will receive $80,000, and Morrow will receive $100,000, according to Dan Reuter, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Land Use Division chief. The money will be distributed through the ARC's Livable Centers Initiative program, which helps communities create quality growth plans to "enhance the livability" of the area, he said.
The funds will be disbursed on a reimbursable basis, according to officials.
"We are excited about the opportunity it presents us to plan for the future of our city," said Hampton City Councilman Arley Lowe, who submitted the application for the money to the ARC in November. "Because of moving the Public Works Department, we'll have almost a three-acre tract downtown. We hope to have a quality, mixed-use development there."
Lowe said the city will move its Public Works Department from its location two blocks from Main Street, to a site next to the new wastewater treatment plant south of Richard Petty Boulevard and west of U.S. Highway 19/41. The move is expected to be completed by June, he said.
Hampton will match the ARC funds with $20,000, which is expected to be taken from the city's Planning Department budget, Lowe added.
"Hampton will further benefit from this grant in that we will use part of the awarded funds to restore some of our historic structures," said City Manager Andy Pippin. "All of our new development, for example the new Fortson library and the future senior center, is modeled after our historic [train] depot.
"We have a very passionate and capable Historic Preservation Commission that presides over our historic district, and we want to maintain Hampton's historic look and feel as best we can," Pippin continued. "Modeling future development after the depot, and restoring and maintaining existing structures, will allow us to smartly grow while remaining the 'hometown' that Hampton residents know and love."
In addition to relocating its Public Works facility, Reuter said Hampton's plans include a pedestrian walkway to a proposed commuter rail stop in Hampton.
Morrow will use the LCI money for a study of the Southlake Mall area and mixed-use district.
The city will match the LCI funds it receives with $25,000, to be drawn from its general fund, said Sylvia Redic, Morrow's grants and planning administrator.
Ga. Highway 54 and Southlake Mall are important components of the economy in Morrow, as well as Clayton County, she said.
"According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, Southlake Mall is one of four regional centers in Clayton County," Redic said. "Understanding this is important, because when we talk about the mall and the mall area, the impact ripples not just across the city or the county, but the region at large. It is particularly important for such areas to maximize resources, and develop economic growth in the best way possible.
"The LCI study will enable Morrow to take a regionally significant center in conjunction with its major travel corridor, Highway 54, and simply plan better," she added. "Such planning helps us stretch the dollar, have more significant impacts and build with sustainability."
Redic said Morrow is 2.5 square miles in size, and the funds will help city officials take advantage of growth opportunities.
"The study will look at the mall area, the Olde Towne Morrow district, the road systems, the interchange, the area's green space, and the mixed-use corridor of Highway 54, and help determine the best methods for approaching future development to ensure smart and sustainable growth," she said.
On the net:
Atlanta Regional Commission: www.atlantaregional.com