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Hampton gets grant to reclaim downtown lot

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The City of Hampton has decided to use an $80,000 grant to redevelop 2.5 acres of downtown real estate.

The money comes from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), and will help the city move forward with its Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) program, said Hampton City Manager Andy Pippin.

Hampton must match the grant with $20,000 of its own money, said Pippin. The matching funds will come from the city's general fund. Hampton applied for the grant in November 2009, said Pippin, and received the money in February.

The Hampton City Council authorized Mayor R.W. Coley to sign a contract with Atlanta-based Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates (TSW), which will conduct a study of the city and its residents, said Pippin. A decision on the grant came during a council meeting on May 18.

The study is expected to begin in June, and be completed by Feb. 2011, Pippin said. "What the study will do is take into consideration population, the age of our residents, where people work, what people do, [the area's] proximity to any future transportation plans, such as passenger rail, if it were to ever pass," said Pippin.

"What it is, primarily, is a study of our land use, with a focus on a part of downtown that sits just two blocks off of Main Street," he continued. "It's about a 2.5-acre tract where our Public Works facility sits now. We are about a month out of moving into a brand-new Public Works facility, and that area will be vacant."

The study will help the city plan for its future, said Caleb Racicot, senior principal for TSW. "The study is going to look at the long-term vision of the revitalization of Hampton," said Racicot. "One of the things we're going to do is identify key development sites. One of the key development sites is the Public Works facility."

It will include transportation recommendations such as lighting upgrades, intersection improvements, and possibly, bike paths and sidewalks, he said.

"One possible use for the area in the interim time before we can implement the plan that comes out of the study," said Pippin, "is to allow the arts community to use the area for various events, such as art shows, plays, farmer's market, etc."

The city chose TSW because it has conducted similar LCI studies in the past, said Pippin. TSW conducted an LCI study for Henry County on the area along Hudson Bridge and Jonesboro roads, according to the company's web site.

Pippin said the company has also "been very successful in getting monies to help implement whatever comes out of the study. That's going to be a very important part of this."

Another reason TSW was selected, he said, is that the firm will work with a local design firm, DW Smith Design Group, of McDonough, which is owned by D. Wayne Smith, a McDonough city councilman. "That made me feel better about choosing an Atlanta firm, because they did have a local flair to them," said Pippin.