Plans to redesign Bradwell Park moved forward — if only a little — following a two-hour meeting at Hinesville’s city hall council chambers Thursday.
The meeting, organized by the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority and the city’s community development department, attracted business and property owners to look at three plans for the redesign. Some owners raised concerns about the effect on parking and alleys.
Business and property owners participating in this second “design charrette” included owners of a coffee shop, a candy shop, hair salons, a flower shop, a restaurant and others. There also was a representative from a nearby bank and an attorney on hand to provide input for the redesign process.
Questions and contention began soon as J. Tanner, landscape architect with PC Simonton & Associates, displayed the three plans that had been drawn based on information from the first redesign meeting.
David Hinze, co-owner of Zum Rosenhof German Restaurant, had concerns about Plan A and wanted a combination of Plans B and C. Plan B would have half of Commerce Street closed to parking, and Plan C would allow for alleys and delivery zones. Plan A was a problem for Hinze and others because it did away with the alleys, which are used for deliveries and by sanitation crews for picking up trash cans. Most agreed any redesign that either limits businesses’ ability to receive deliveries or makes no allocation for trash pickup was a non-starter.
However, the most controversial issue was parking.
“We need to address the parking issue before we do anything about redesigning the park,” said Jenny Cole, owner of coffee and sandwich shop Uncommon Grounds. “I don’t care if they close all of Commerce Street. Most of the people parking in front of our shop are not our customers. They’re people trying to park closer to some other business, or city hall, or the courthouse or the Justice Center. The city needs to invest in building a parking deck, or hire someone to enforce short-term (customer) parking.”
City engineer Paul Simonton agreed that parking is a serious issue. However, he tried to turn the discussion back to the park’s redesign — and away from what he called “deeper issues” — including parking, greenery, a larger gazebo and a larger fountain. He later said he’d propose having an updated parking study conducted before the next meeting.
County Administrator Joey Brown responded to a business owner’s question about whether to expect additional parking when the courthouse renovation is completed in March.
“When the courthouse reopens, juvenile court will be conducted there one or two days a week,” Brown said. “Administrative functions that were temporarily moved will return, along with voter registration. And, yes, parking will continue to be a problem.”
Attorney John Pirkle spoke up several times, asking if the city had a vision about what it was looking for in redesigning Bradwell Park. He expressed concern about any plans that might put the park’s large oak trees at risk, and suggested what the park needs most is even more greenery for shading.
Assistant City Manager Ken Howard reiterated that the city’s intent is to finalize a plan that would make the downtown area more attractive. He, Simonton and city public relations manager Krystal Britton urged everyone to focus on the “greater good” of the community more than their personal concerns.
The business owners responded by saying they supported improving the look of the park and attracting more people to special events, like concerts and the farmers market, but not if those changes adversely affect their businesses.
Howard and Simonton agreed that there was a consensus among those there that the alleys need to stay and that it is OK to close at least half of Commerce Street. Howard said they would take meeting attendees’ advice and return with a new plan — not three choices — that incorporated their concerns.
“We have received your comments today, and will incorporate what you said in developing a new plan but not an A, B or C plan,” Howard said. “We will take (the finalized plan) back to the mayor and (city) council, based on your consensus. (On their approval), I will begin the process of seeking grant funding for the redesign project.”
No date was given for the next redesign meeting. Business and property owners affected will be notified in advance.