Georgia Cities Foundation’s 2012 Heart and Soul Bus Tour revisited Hinesville this year, arriving in front of the Liberty County Justice Center around 9:30 a.m. Thursday to a welcome celebration that featured Bradwell Institute’s marching band and cheerleading squad.
The group of state-agency leaders, business leaders, downtown developers and philanthropists last visited Hinesville six years ago.
“This bus tour is mostly a sharing of ideas that showcases the successes our cities have had in developing their downtowns,” foundation President Mike Starr said. “It’s also a goal to direct capital toward these cities. I was here six years ago and remember the development plans Hinesville was talking about then. This morning, as we drove up Memorial Drive and saw the justice center and city hall, I thought, ‘These guys really get stuff done.’”
The group of 40 distinguished guests was met in Pembroke by Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Director Vicki Davis and Hinesville
Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier, who rode the bus with them through Fort Stewart to Hinesville.
While en route to Hinesville, Davis and Frasier talked about the history of the area and its close working relationship with the military. The guests were told they would be able to see the results of planned development talked about during the group’s last visit, including those mentioned by Starr. They also heard about future development plans, including revitalizing Bradwell Park, development of Bryant Commons and a possible relocation of the city library.
“Being a military town, we’ve got every ethnic group possible,” said Frasier, citing the upcoming Small World Festival as one of the ways the community celebrates diversity. “And because of our diversity, we have to reach out to everyone.”
He told the group about the city’s partnership with Fort Stewart for wastewater treatment and shared use of Midcoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield. Davis pointed out the city only recently became proactive rather than reactive in its downtown development.
Among those welcoming the group at the Justice Center was Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver, Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards and Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes. Sikes told the group the Justice Center was “built right the first time,” adding that it would serve the needs of the community for the next 50 years. Lt. James Caines led the group on a tour through the first and second floors of the facility.
Georgia Municipal Association Executive Director Lamar Norton and Beth English, second vice president of the GMA and mayor pro tem of Vienna, expressed approval of the state-of-the-art justice facility and city hall.
“The downtown view (from city hall’s third floor) is wonderful,” said English, as she studied the proposed plan to revamp Bradwell Park. “It’s just beautiful what you’ve done here.”
After the tour of city hall, guests were treated to birthday cake in the Hinesville Room, celebrating Hinesville’s 175th birthday about five months early. Before leaving for Jesup then St. Marys, the group took a windshield tour of Bryant Commons.
Bryant Commons project engineer Marcus Sack of P.C. Simonton & Associates, conducted the final tour, telling the group about plans to finish developing the 150 acres, including 7 acres of lawn space, a 15-acre lake, a rose garden, amphitheater, open-air pavilion and a veterans memorial walk.