Decatur presents goals, objectives of downtown master plan during community meetingCommunity members discussed the Decatur Town Center plan during a community meeting on Thursday, March 2, at the Decatur Recreation Center. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur hosted a community meeting on the Decatur Town Center Plan on Thursday, March 2, and the planning team shared the goals and objectives of the draft plan.
The plan was first adopted in 1982, and this is the first comprehensive look at downtown Decatur since then.
In June 2022, the city commission approved a project budget of $410,000 and an agreement with MKSK, Inc., for planning services related to the downtown master plan. The agreement amount was $392,500.
“The Decatur Downtown Master Plan will build upon themes of the 2020 Strategic Plan, and with input from all stakeholders, develop a strategic implementation plan where downtown is the focal point and will have a guide for years to come,” Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill previously said.
The consultants have gotten input from about 855 people throughout its public engagement opportunities.
“A few of the things that we’ve learned thus far is that one, people love Decatur for its walkability, the fact that it’s a very approachable community, has a small town feel,” said Luis Calvo, senior associate at MKSK. “People love to come downtown for festivals and special events.”
He added that many people have said the Square is the heart of downtown Decatur.
“However, even though it’s working really well, there are things that could be refreshed and updated [to make] it a little bit more comfortable,” Calvo said.
The consultants have also heard about things that need to improve, including addressing the needs of the unhoused, and improving parking.
“Some of these things include finding a more humane way to address the needs of the unhoused. This is a regional and city wide issue, but obviously something that impacts downtown directly,” Calvo said. “We also heard that parking downtown is perhaps not the best experience as a visitor. It’s something that’s not intuitive and a little bit confusing.”
The consultants also learned that there needs to be more of a focus on safety, beautification and maintenance. They heard, loud and clear, that downtown needs more greenspace, “making sure that the green spaces that are in downtown are functioning really well and are welcoming, finding opportunities for new types of green spaces.”
Other improvements included improving streets and sidewalks to better connect downtown, attracting more diverse and unique retail, including a grocery store, and having more affordable housing options in downtown.
The project goals and objectives are:
– Stimulate economic growth in the downtown area.
“As we look at objectives here, we want to strengthen that small business ecosystem, continue to do things like facade grants, look at downtown not as a monolithic thing, but it might have little sub-districts that have different focuses,” said Andrew Overbeck, principal at MKSK.
Another objective is to capture a greater share of the customer base to expand the city’s retail offerings.
“We want to leverage our institutional assets and anchor employers, continue to have jobs in downtown, and then create that opportunity for a new hotel development,” Overbeck said.
– Improve the quality of the downtown experience.
Part of the objectives include continuing to address the needs of the unhoused population by providing outreach and connections to service organizations. The city is currently partnering with Frontline Response.
“We want to focus on place management, that really means taking care of downtown and beautifying downtown and having a group that’s dedicated to that,” Overbeck said. “Making downtown parking more intuitive, and the final one…is making sure everyone feels welcome in downtown, that’s everything from how people are treated when they’re here, but also having events that speak to a large portion of the population.”
– Create welcoming and vibrant open spaces, parks, and plazas.
The consultants have heard a lot about the Square from the community. The first objective in this section is to create a more comfortable Decatur Square with amenities that attract daily activity and flexible, accessible spaces for community events.
“We also want to make sure that the Square is connected to its surroundings,” Calvo said. “The Square is only part of a network of open spaces in the downtown. We also need to make sure that that experience of open space in the downtown is something that’s welcoming across the entire spectrum. In addition to that, we want to make sure that all of these spaces are activated, enlivened with public art.”
– Enhance downtown’s historic character and unique identity.
“As we think about our objectives related to history and showcasing that, one we want to retain and preserve what’s already there, really think through, be thoughtful about making sure that these buildings continue to shape the character of downtown,” Calvo said. “Telling the story of Decatur finding the things that are part of our history that are not being appropriately told, and finding a place to make sure that they’re out in the public realm, and really showcasing that and celebrating the history and acknowledging it.”
The plans also looks at continuing to evaluate the inclusion of new buildings to existing districts or consider the creation of new districts.
– Balance land use patterns with human-centered design.
“We want to support pedestrian-oriented development really throughout downtown, but we particularly see opportunities around the MARTA station and along Commerce Drive,” Overbeck said. “We want to make sure that we continue to accommodate a variety of different housing types and price points. And then finally, new development that happens needs to have the amenities in it that make this an enjoyable place to live.”
– Promote mobility enhancements that improve connectivity.
One of the objectives is to focus on key corridor improvements, such as Ponce de Leon Avenue and Commerce Drive. Ponce should function as a walkable main street spine for downtown, but there are some gaps in that walkability. A segment of Commerce has been redesigned to be walkable, but that experience fades passed Clairemont Avenue, Calvo said.
The objectives also include expanding downtown’s bicycle infrastructure, leveraging planned MARTA improvements to enhance areas around the Decatur Station and create a more welcoming, modernized bus terminal, and transforming underutilized commercial streets and parking areas into festival or flexible spaces.
– Support a resilient and environmentally sustainable downtown.
This was an additional goal added after meeting in November 2022. The project objectives are to recognize and measure the urban heat island effect, advance citywide sustainability goals, and encourage sustainable practices in downtown development and growth.
If you appreciate our work, please become a paying supporter. For as little as $6 a month, you can help us keep you in the loop about your community. To become a supporter, click here.
Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here.
Decaturish is now on Mastadon. To follow us, visit: https://newsie.social/@Decaturish/.
Decaturish is now on Post. To follow us, visit: https://post.news/decaturish.
Decaturish is now on Flipboard. To follow us, visit: https://flipboard.com/@Decaturish