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Decatur Downtown Development Authority creates a retail recruitment incubator program

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Decatur Downtown Development Authority creates a retail recruitment incubator program

The Decatur Downtown Development Authority met on Friday, July 9, to discuss creating a retail recruitment incubator program as well as consider a new grocery store development on East College Avenue. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Downtown Development Authority created a retail recruitment incubator program and appointed members to its selection and advisory committee at the July 9 board meeting.

Downtown Program Manager Shirley Baylis presented the program to the DDA at the June 11 meeting and requested $25,000 to fund the program. The retail recruitment incubator program will give the city an opportunity to provide a brick-and-mortar space for homegrown businesses to set up a pop-up shop and be in a co-op space, she said.

“The proposed retail recruitment incubator program is designed to focus on increasing retail and restaurant offerings in downtown Decatur,” Baylis said at the June meeting. “The program is designed for entrepreneurs that wish to grow their existing business from an online, festival, expo or similar setting into a brick and mortar location in downtown.”

In order to participate in the program, applicants must be an owner of a small business with 10 or fewer employees and must have been in business for at 24 months. Applicants must also be able to fund a portion of the rent, utilities and provide liability insurance, according to the resolution. The DDA plans to fund 50% of the rent for the commercial space, which has yet to be determined.

The program will offer entrepreneurs the chance to go into a space as a six-month pop up retail vendor to introduce their goods to the public and determine the potential for success in a brick-and-mortar location or potentially be able to lease shelf space with an existing retailer, she added.

“The program will offer a training and mentorship component that selected applicants will be required to participate in as part of the program,” Baylis said.

The committee will be responsible for creating a set of guidelines and requirements for the applicants who participate in the program, reviewing the applications, selecting the participants, developing the goals and expectations of the mentors, coordinating training topics and resources, as well as interviewing and selecting the mentors and trainers, Baylis said at the July meeting.

Members of the committee would serve for one year. Baylis’ goal is to get started with the program in August, review the applications in September and be able to get entrepreneurs in the space before the holidays.

The members of the committee, including Baylis, are:

– Chet Burge, managing partner of Burge and Associates

– Sean Crotty, owner of Kelly’s Market

– Juanita Marzette, who works at SouthState Bank

– Lisa Turner, DDA board member and owner of Trinity Mercantile & Design.

“I’d be happy to help,” Turner said. “I’d love to help other small businesses get off the ground.”

In other business, the DDA approved a plan for Savi Provisions to develop a half-acre site with a two-story retail grocery store at the intersection of Sams Crossing and East College Avenue.

Savi Provisions is a franchise store, but the shops are small and not like major chains, such as Kroger. The shop will be a new store and an expansion of the business. There is another Savi Provisions in Decatur on West Ponce de Leon Avenue.

The proposed store on East College Avenue will mostly be for the neighbors in the area to be able to purchase groceries and go back to their apartments, said Erick Garcia Salas of Contineo Group, the civil engineering firm of the project.

The shop would also feature a rooftop bar area with a garden to engage the neighbors. A to-go restaurant will be on site as well for customers to be able to grab food and go. It will not a be dine-in restaurant, Garcia Salas said.

The firm hopes to bring the intersection together with the plan and make the area more inviting to pedestrians, Garcia Salas said. There is a sidewalk on the site already that the engineering firm and developer plans to leave in place and update, he added.

“There’s [not] anything too fancy about here. I mean, we’re just going to try to make it look nice and inviting,” Garcia Salas said.

City staff recommended adoption of the resolution. Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said the one minor issue with the plan is that it exceeds the maximum parking allowed by one space. The city plans to continue conversations with the developers about the project to resolve the issue.

The Contineo Group plans to add green space to the site and plant trees where there are cut outs in the site plan, Garcia Salas said. The developers will be subject to comply with the city’s tree ordinance, Threadgill added.

This photo is the site plan for the Savi Provisions proposed for the intersection of East College Avenue and Sams Crossing. Photo is from the city of Decatur.

In regard to trees, the city will have to coordinate with the Georgia Department of Transportation on where trees can be planted on the site, what types of trees can be planted and how close they can be to East College Avenue, as the road is a state road, Threadgill said.

The entrance to the store would be on East College Avenue. Some concerns were raised about when exiting the parking lot, drivers may not be able to turn left toward Sams Crossing. DDA Chair Connor McNally said it feels dangerous for people to try to turn left and cross two lanes of traffic. Salas said the firm plans to address the issue and the plan will also be reviewed by GDOT.

The plan will go before the Decatur City Commission for final approval.

The DDA will meet again on Friday, Aug. 13, at City Hall, 509 N. McDonough Street.

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