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DDA looks for ways to revive city

POSTED: February 19, 2014 1:00 p.m.

With two new faces and a lot of enthusiasm all around, the Winder Downtown Development Authority discussed a number of their goals for both the near and more distant future at Tuesday’s meeting.

Most of those goals revolved around attracting more businesses and consumers to the area, and making sure the customers have optimal places to park.

And pretty much all the goals have the caveat of being something to be taken on once streetscape is finished, and work is progressing to the point where the end is no longer too far off.

In other words, the DDA is getting ready to put into action many of its plans revolving around the development of downtown.

"I want us to start acting like a DDA," said chairman Chris Maddox, echoing earlier statements. "I want to figure out how to buy a building, assist business owners to get in it, sell it to them and do it again."

That long term idea is just one of Maddox’s goals he brought up during the meeting. All of the members had advice on how to improve the downtown area now that the construction work is starting to come to a close.

The DDA’s new city council liaison, former DDA chairman Larry Evans, implored the other members to help the city become a Main Street City once again.

The next chance to apply is September of 2015.

Evans also added that, if more businesses can be brought back downtown, that reviving something akin to the Downtown Merchant’s Association would be beneficial.

First, of course, there is a need for more businesses downtown, and member Mike Rice had good news on that front, noting that the issues Winder is facing with vacant buildings are not unique, and that potential business owners from other areas are actually impressed by the downtown.

"It shocked me how many people from out of town are interested," he said. "I think we’ve got more to offer than we realize."

To back that up, he announced that there would soon be a new business selling coffee and ice cream on Broad Street where Skip’s Hawaiian Ice had been.

Rice said he’d also like to see more work on fixing some of the parking issues downtown by designating public parking lots, an idea that the other members liked as well and that is already being looked into more.

New member Wes Vankirk also noted that, while there is plenty of parking currently, much of that space could soon be absorbed with new businesses soon coming in.

Of course, revitalizing downtown is not just about getting more businesses but more customers, and member Mace Strickland said she’d like to see more done to get downtown properties up to code in order to make the area look better.

Evans said the code enforcement issues with the city were still being worked out, but that more would be done in that regard as well.

Strickland also implored the other members to include feedback she is receiving from school students in their future goals, as they are excited about the future of downtown as well.

Tuesday morning, students weren’t the only ones getting a little more excited about the possibilities for downtown Winder.



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