The renovation of Bradwell Park and the addition of an auditorium, banquet hall at Bryant Commons were revealed at a May 23 meeting of the Hinesville Development Authority.
During a discussion of the Downtown Merchants Association, City Manager Kenneth Howard said merchants should know about an upcoming renovation of Bradwell Park that includes closing off Commerce Street to vehicle traffic. He said the project is a makeover of the park, which will include fountains where kids can play. Howard said the project should help the current shops, but added he would like for them to be included in the planning conversations.
HDDA Director Michelle Ricketson said the group is ready to move forward with renovations at Bryant Commons, turning a current metal building into the community building. Part of the building has no walls, just a slab and roof. The renovation will enclose all of the structure to include an auditorium, banquet hall with a kitchen, meeting rooms, restrooms and storage.
The project is estimated to cost $1.2 million. Ricketson said the first phase of the project would cost almost $700,000 including $500,000 from grants. She said they are researching how to pay for the rests.
Also May 23, the board welcomed two new members. Board members are appointed by the mayor and council.
Sabrina Newby and Sheila Eichhorn were appointed after Joseph Ford and Barbara Martin-VanDuser’s terms expired on May 18. Other board members were re-appointed. During the meeting the board also filled their executive positions.
The 2018 board is as follows:
Chair John Baker (re-appointed to board, elected as chair), Vice Chair Melissa Carter Ray (term expires in 2020), Secretary Roger Jones (2020) and Treasurer Eichhorn. Also on the board are Mayor Allen Brown, former Mayor Tom Ratcliffe and Newby.
Baker said the HDDA bylaws need to be updated to reflect the meeting date or every fourth Wednesday.
Ricketson said the staff is beginning to work on the FY 2019 budget. Ricketson reported she completed the Leadership Southeast Georgia training and added that training for board members and staff is upcoming.
Ricketson said the HDDA will continue to work to establish a permanent military zone designation to encompass the downtown district. Businesses in designated zones are eligible for tax credits.
Ricketson noted that the average vehicle count for Bryant Commons was 200 per day. She said Lowe’s is interested in donating to the park, but details are not set yet. They are also working out details for a possible butterfly garden.
Ricketson presented a map of the downtown area, showing the city had invested $173 million within the HDDA triangle from 2008 through 2017.
During the meeting, Baker said the Hinesville Merchants Association was reforming and will meet at 5:30 p.m. June 19 at the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce office. Howard asked why the association was being reformed.
Cathy Thomas, who owns Molly Maxine, said downtown shop owners feel the need to organize to promote their businesses. Chamber and CVB CEO Leah Poole said downtown merchants feel they don’t get enough marketing to be successful. Thomas and Poole also both expressed concerns about moving events, like Blues, Brews and BBQ, to Bryant Commons, cutting foot traffic around businesses near the courthouse during the events.
The HDDA board is considering moving the event for 2019.
“I would prefer to keep that where it is now so I can stay open,” Thomas said.
Howard said he would like the HDDA to look into the concerns. He said if the association reforms members should work with HDDA.