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Decatur hosting final downtown master plan community meeting on April 27

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Decatur hosting final downtown master plan community meeting on April 27

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: The downtown Square begins to fill up as the sun sets during the city of Decatur’s Fourth of July celebration on Monday, July 4, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur is hosting the final community meeting on the downtown master plan from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, at the Decatur Recreation Center, 231 Sycamore Street.

The Decatur Town Center Plan, which is also known as the downtown master plan, was first adopted in 1982. The update to the plan is the first comprehensive look at downtown Decatur since then.

The event will feature a 45-minute presentation from MKSK, the consultant team working on the plan. Attendees can also visit tables around the room to provide feedback on the action items in the downtown master plan.

“We will have a presentation from the consultant team, which will provide an overview of the plan’s objectives and recommended action items,” Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill said during the April 17 Decatur City Commission meeting. “It will also provide us some conceptual plans for three opportunity sites that we are looking at and talking with the property owners about how to redevelop those in the future [for] long-term redevelopment. We’ll also be seeing conceptual plans for the refresh of the Decatur Square.”

The steering committee has looked at three opportunity sites – Baby Kroger and the Decatur Housing Authority properties, the county property on Commerce Drive, and the United States Post Office building.

“We’re considering them more opportunity sites because…most of our downtown has already been revitalized. These are just some leftover sites that are underutilized, have surface parking,” Threadgill previously said.

For the county buildings, the city will work with DeKalb to look at how the area near the intersection of Commerce Drive and West Trinity Place could be redesigned into a mixed-use project or public parking deck. The administration building and the Maloof Auditorium would remain, but there’s an additional one-story office wing and surface parking.

The post office does own its property, which is about five acres. Each site is a midterm to long-term outlook, Threadgill said.

“We don’t anticipate the post office closing that shop any time soon, but we do want to look at that as an opportunity site,” Threadgill said. “If the opportunity ever does come about, we have some guidance. We’ve vetted it with the community.”

Some of the goals and objectives in the plan 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, at a community meeting in March.

– Improve the quality of the downtown experience.

Part of the objectives includes 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.

The plan aims to make parking more intuitive and ensure everyone feels welcome in downtown Decatur.

– Create welcoming and vibrant open spaces, parks, and plazas.

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.

– Enhance downtown’s historic character and unique identity.

The plans also look at continuing to evaluate the inclusion of new buildings in existing districts or considering the creation of new districts.

– Balance land use patterns with human-centered design.

The plan supports pedestrian-oriented development throughout downtown, but the city and consultants also want to see opportunities around the MARTA station and along Commerce Drive.

“We want to make sure that we continue to accommodate a variety of different housing types and price points,” Overbeck said. “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. The objectives also include expanding downtown’s bicycle infrastructure, leveraging planned MARTA improvements to enhance areas around the Decatur Station, creating a more welcoming modernized bus terminal, and transforming underutilized commercial streets and parking areas into flexible spaces.

– Support a resilient and environmentally sustainable downtown.

These objectives include recognizing and measuring the urban heat island effect, advancing citywide sustainability goals, and encouraging sustainable downtown development and growth practices.

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