Georgia Trend Magazine chose Hinesville as one of Georgia’s top eight “Renaissance Cities” for its February 2013 edition. According to the article by Candice Dyer, Patty Rasmussen and John McCurry, the eight cities that made the list were Blue Ridge, Columbus, Dahlonega, Decatur, Hinesville, Roswell, Savannah and Statesboro.
“We asked the Georgia Municipal Association to help us identify some cities that had had good success with downtown revitalization,” said Susan Percy, editor of Georgia Trend Magazine. “From their list, the editorial staff at Georgia Trend made the selections.”
Percy described the list of renaissance cities as a vehicle her editorial staff came up with to highlight some interesting and progressive cities their readers would like to know about.
“Typically, we focus on cities in our February issue,” she said. “In previous years, we have partnered with the GMA to publicize winners of a joint prize competition — Cities of Excellence or Trendsetter Cities. This year, we wanted to take a different approach.”
Hinesville public-relations manager Krystal Hart said the city gained the attention of the GMA and Georgia Cities Foundation during the 2012 Heart & Soul Tour, April 18-20. During the three-day tour, state agency and business leaders, along with developers and philanthropists, visited coastal cities like Hinesville, she said. Hinesville left a lasting impression.
Hart said $35 million was invested from 2008-12 in downtown public projects like the Liberty County Justice Center, a new Hinesville City Hall, the Azalea Street Townhome project and redevelopment of Memorial Drive.
“Hinesville was noted for our successful partnerships at state and local levels to provide services and amenities to our residents,” Hart said. “We are proud of our community leaders who work diligently to create a sustainable, revitalized and vibrant downtown that is an economic hub while enhancing the quality of life for the community.”
Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Vicki Davis told Rasmussen that Hinesville’s downtown revitalization officially began in 2004 with the creation of the HDDA, but it was a 2001 state report that prompted local leaders to create the HDDA.
“The folks at state will tell you we’ve been a model city for implementing the recommendations of their report,” said Davis, pointing out that the report recommended focusing on developing arts and culture in the downtown district and building a new library. “One thing people think is that downtown development is a single project with a beginning and ending date. It’s an ongoing investment.”
She said the $35 million in public investments helped leverage that much or greater private investment in the downtown district. Locating the justice center and city hall downtown kept government services and police and fire stations within “walkable” distances from the city’s historic core, Davis said.
Davis explained Hinesville also takes advantage of its proximity to Fort Stewart. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs Military Zone Tax Credit has benefited the city through new small-business development, including retail and restaurants, she said.
Davis said the city’s many partners include not only the military but county leaders and what she called inter-organizations, such as the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, the arts council and the historic society. It also includes local businesses and property owners, she said. All these partners collaborate for downtown events like the Scarecrow Stroll, Farmers Market and the Small World Festival, which bring more people to downtown, Davis said.