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Azalea Street project earns state award
Representatives from the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority and the city of Hinesville accept a $500 award from the Georgia Downtown Association and Department of Community Affairs for the Azalea Street redevelopment project. From left are DCA Office of Downtown Development Director Billy Parrish, Hinesville City Council Member Charles Frasier, Liberty County Commissioner Donald Lovette, Hinesville Assistant City Manager Ken Howard, HDDA Executive Director Vicki Davis and Georgia Main Street State Coordinator Kimberly Carter. - photo by Photo provided.
The Hinesville Downtown Development Authority and the city of Hinesville were recognized earlier this month by the Georgia Downtown Association and Department of Community Affairs for the Azalea Street redevelopment project.  
Rather than relocate an entire neighborhood, the HDDA, in partnership with the city, built affordable housing for low-to-moderate-income families on Azalea Street after a 2001 study recognized the area as one of Hinesville’s “worst” in terms of substandard housing. The project was funded with money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.
Hinesville and HDDA officials accepted the city’s Downtown of Excellence Award for best problem solving in the large town category. The awards were presented at the Georgia Downtown Conference held Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Augusta. Hinesville was recognized along with Tifton, Valdosta, Milledgeville, Toccoa, Carrollton, Nashville, Cartersville, Augusta and Dahlonega.
“The Georgia Downtown Awards were established to recognize individuals, downtown programs or businesses that have demonstrated unique efforts in making a difference in their downtowns,” said Georgia Main Street State Coordinator Kimberly Carter in a written statement.  “The award categories are based on the 4-Point Approach™ of downtown revitalization as developed by the National Trust’s Main Street Center and focus on organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring.”
The award presented to the HDDA and the city would not have been possible without the support of the current mayor and city council, and former mayor (Tom Ratcliffe) and city council, said Hinesville Assistant City Manager Ken Howard. Howard also heads the city’s community development department, which provides HDDA staff support on the Azalea Street redevelopment project.
Vicki Davis, HDDA executive director, explained the city entered into a memorandum of understanding with HDDA to implement the project, because by law the city cannot sell or transfer properties to individuals.
Howard said the Azalea Street redevelopment project is a model for other communities in the state to follow. He added one of the city’s goals was to improve the neighborhood so lifelong residents would choose to stay in their homes.
“We received the first grant in 2003,” Howard said. “We began acquiring properties and began the first of three phases. The two years previous to that were devoted to planning.”
Phase I has been completed with 12 townhomes and seven single family detached housing units, Howard said. “We have begun phase II for which we have five housing units (planned) and one is under construction.”
The assistant city manager said the city is currently acquiring properties for phase III.
“We are 75 percent complete in those efforts,” he said.
Earlier this year, council members discussed the possibility of building a community center for Azalea Street residents and heard some residents speak in opposition to the proposed center. Howard said most neighborhood residents have voiced approval for a community center.
The city has set aside property for a center and surveyed residents via certified letters to gauge community opinion, he said. However, funding for such a project is not currently available, Howard said.
“We have no definite plans to build it now,” he said.
Howard said the city also plans to “look at” other neighborhoods for future redevelopment such as the area around Gause Street.
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