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Focus groups discuss downtown Hinesville
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A public town hall meeting held March 4, and a series of focus group discussions held the remainder of last week addressed the redevelopment of downtown Hinesville.

The City of Hinesville was recently designated as a “Renaissance” community by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute. The designation will draw in support and resources from the university and the Georgia Municipal Association to assist with the creation of a new strategic vision and plan for downtown Hinesville.

Prior to the town hall meeting and focus groups, a steering committee was chosen to oversee the plan and its progress. The committee members are: John Baker, Melissa Carter Ray, Roger Jones, Shonda Mickel, Tom Ratcliffe, Sabrina Newby, Mayor Allen Brown, Cathy Thomas, City Manager Kenneth Howard, and Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Director Michelle Ricketson.

The focus area for the redevelopment plan is what is commonly referred to as the Downtown Hinesville “triangle” and includes most locations between General Screven Way and General Stewart Way from Highway 84 toward Fort Stewart. It also includes the Azalea Street beautification area and Bryant Commons Park.

The town hall group worked with Carl Vinson Institute representative Danny Bivins. Tables were set out, each with a laptop, and folks seated at those tables worked together in discussing ideas and thoughts based on questionso Bivins posed to the group.

Those thoughts and ideas were entered into the lap top which will then serve as part of the data the Carl Vinson Institute will use as they develop the potential master plan.

Among some of the things that people addressed was the possibility of updating or streamlining the process for new businesses in downtown, noting that the current policy, “tends to be too costly and has turned businesses away.”

The group also came to a consensus that the city needs to provide more incentives to draw entrepreneurs to the downtown triangle. They also spoke about activities and events that would draw in more foot traffic to the area on the evenings and weekend.

Participants said there seems to be good communication between the different merchants in downtown Hinesville but the communication between those merchants and the city needs to be improved. The group described downtown as being dead after 5 p.m.

When asked what the folks envisioned for downtown in 10 years a new motto of “Alive after Five” was posted by Krystal Hart.

The protection and restoration of historic buildings was also a topic of discussion among one focus group.

They expressed concerns about the stringent and antiquated building policies which make it easier and less expensive for older buildings to be torn down instead of preserved or restored.

“We are losing our history,” focus group participant and county Commissioner Gary Gilliard said.

Throughout the process the Institute will work with the steering committee to ensure the community is aware of the ongoing process of the redevelopment plan.

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