Officials –– representing cities in Clayton County –– were eager to share their updated plans for economic development with one another, and community and business leaders, during the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's "SunTrust Early Bird Breakfast," on Thursday.
The event was held at the Recreation Outreach Center of the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, with representatives of the cities serving as panelists.
The panelists included: Barbra Coffee, director of economic development for College Park; John Parker, city manager of Forest Park; Luther Maddox, mayor of Jonesboro; Willie Oswalt, mayor of Lake City; Michael McLaughlin, planning and economic development director for the City of Morrow, and Michael Syphoe, executive director of the City of Riverdale.
Jonesboro's Maddox was pleased to share news about the progress of the city's Street Scape project, whose first phase is nearing completion in the downtown business district, and is expected to help attract business interest and assist in preserving Jonesboro's rich history.
He said the project, when completed, will help the city emphasize "the core values that make Jonesboro what it is today."
Each panelist had plenty to share about his or her city's economic development projects and plans. Below are capsule summaries of their reports:
• SteetScape project already underway. Downtown Jonesboro, covering half-a-mile of both Main Street –– from North Avenue to South Avenue –– and McDonough Street –– from Johnson Street to Turner Road. Phase I will be completed in about six weeks. Workers focusing on landscaping, installation of bricks on sidewalks, and handicap ramps. City has applied for Georgia Transportation Enhancement Grant Program, and is awaiting response. Already has received $2.7 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Should be advised about grant status April
• Officials emphasized the city's Gateway Center development. Gateway Center. Located between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the airport's rental car center. Phase I includes the 400,000-square-foot Georgia International Convention Center. Gateway Center One is a part of Phase II, completed Aug. 3, 2010. It includes a 130,000-square-foot office building, which is already 40-percent leased, the Atlanta Airport Mariott Gateway hotel, and SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway. Phase III will add two more office buildings, a hotel, restaurant and retail development.
• Officials focused on the re-planning of the Atlanta Farmers' Market to update the retail area; provide potential customers with climate-controlled facilities; separate retail traffic from wholesale commodity traffic. Project will have two phases, with overall investment of $25 million. No official date for construction has been set.
• Also: Main Street corridor development, including 330 acres located in Downtown Forest Park, a $350 million investment. Phase I includes enhancement of streets, sidewalks and walking areas, as well as an underground parking deck with a public park/leisure area above the deck. Power lines and other wiring will be placed underground. Will be done in two phases. Phase I to be completed in about six months. Phase II to begin in 12 to 14 months.
• Fort Gillem: The fort will close on Sept. 15. Forest Park is in the negotiation stages with the U.S. Army over plans to redevelop the area.
• Officials are touting the Lake City Nature Preserve and East Jesters Creek Stream Restoration project, a joint effort between the city and the Clayton County Water Authority. Creek is located behind Lake City's city hall, at 5455 Jonesboro Road. Nature-Preserve construction occurring east of city hall. Preserve to include parking area, a lake, a pavilion, a 1.4-mile walking trail, five pedestrian bridges and a lake overlook. A community center will be constructed, during the project's second phase. Preserve has a $1.9 million budget. Water Authority responsible for the East Jesters Creek Stream Restoration. Creek runs through center of preserve. Stream Restoration project's budget is $466,907.50. Entire project began in June 2010, and scheduled to be finished the end of the year.
• A community center project is included as part of Nature Preserve. Building will be 3,750 square feet, and include a large banquet room, kitchen, wrap-around porches and an event patio. Estimated cost is $500,000. Bidding to begin in March.
• The city is refocusing its overall marketing plan, with the goal of making Morrow more accessible to consumers; create a one-stop shop for companies interested in doing business in the city; create market study to address issues at the Highway 54 corridor, Southlake Mall and areas surrounding the mall, including Olde Towne Morrow. Market study is expected to be completed end of March. City will develop a comprehensive plan of how issues will affect Morrow in the next 25 years; actualize a five-year public relations campaign on the City of Morrow, and re-construct Morrow's web site, with a strategic approach to re-brand the city.
• Officials also concentrating on their marketing plan to position the city for a market rebound, with the goal of making the Riverdale Town Center a work-and-play environment. Riverdale will also launch a new regional park, which will be located behind the Town Center.