GDRP Report (2023)

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o wnt d a i g o

p i h s r e n t Par 201

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DOWNTOWNS are the heart


and are integral to the economic prosperity of our cities and state.


A Decade of Impact:

Over 60 Communities, Countless Success Stories In 2013, the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and the Georgia Cities Foundation (GCF) joined forces with the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government to form the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership. In 2015, the Lyndhurst Foundation joined the partnership to support northwest Georgia. For the past decade, this innovative partnership has brought community-driven planning and design support to over 60 cities across every region of Georgia. Through signature program elements like the Renaissance Strategic Vision and Planning (RSVP) process, the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellowship, and targeted design assistance for partner communities, the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership plays a pivotal role in creating economically vibrant downtowns that benefit both partner communities and the state as a whole. In 2023, the partnership brought RSVP plans to Carrollton and Homerville, Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellowships to Baxley and Elberton, provided targeted design assistance to the cities of Moultrie and Young Harris, and offered follow-up RSVP design support to Homerville, Hawkinsville, Thomson, and Ringgold. The plans and projects outlined here illustrate the crucial role the partnership continues to play in the revitalization of communities throughout Georgia.

Renaissance Strategic Vision and Plan (RSVP) RSVP plans capture a community’s vision for the future and provide the steps necessary to get there. Driven by a robust public input process, RSVP plans help local governments prioritize top issues and establish a consensus around what must be achieved for a community to realize its potential. With the support of GMA and GCF, 25 RSVP plans have been completed across the state.

From Concept to Reality:

Homerville’s Downtown Revitalization Journey In January 2023, planning studio staff presented the Homerville RSVP plan to community members at the Homerville Municipal Complex. Homerville’s dedicated city staff and invested downtown business owners began implementing elements of the plan long before the final presentation. Over the past year, local entrepreneurs bought and renovated a block of buildings, remodeled a long-closed storefront to house a new children’s store, opened a new downtown restaurant, installed murals on downtown walls and paving, and welcomed a number of new businesses downtown. Local leaders, business owners, and artists used design concepts created by the partnership to inform all these transformational projects.

Before RSVP

Proposed In step one of the RSVP process, Homerville residents repeatedly expressed the need for a sitdown downtown restaurant open in the evenings.


Implemented In s t e p o n e o f t he RSVP p ro ce s s , Ho m e r v i lle re s i de n t s re p e at e dly e xp re s s e d t he n e e d f o r a s i t do wn do wn t o wn re s t au ran t o p e n i n t he e v e n i n gs. In s t i t u t e de s i gn e r s de v e lo p e d f açade de s i gn s an d o t he r co n ce p t s f o r a lo cal b u s i n e s s o wn e r i n t e re s t e d i n o p e n i n g a do wn t o wn b ar an d gr i ll. T he s e i m age s s ho w t he o r i gi n al co n di t i o n o f t he v acan t b u i ldi n g, t he re n de r i n g i n t he Ho m e r v i lle RSVP p lan , an d t he i m p le m e n t e d de s i gn .

From Voices to Visions:

How Community Input Shapes RSVP Success In February 2023, UGA Institute of Government

University of Georgia Institute of Government

planners and designers initiated the Carrollton

Danny Bivins, Senior Public Service Associate

interviews, focus groups, and a community survey

RSVP process with a community town hall meeting,

Kaitlin Messich, Public Service Associate

that gathered the input of over 3,600 citizens.

T. Clark Stancil, Landscape and Urban Designer

Residents voiced a general consensus around key

Kelsey Broich, Creative Design Specialist

issues downtown, including the need to address traffic

Eleonora Machado, Creative Design Specialist Garrison Taylor, Graduate Assistant Erik Thompson, Research Professional

issues at Adamson Square, improve parking areas, and enhance walkability. Residents also envisioned attracting more downtown housing and creating a

O v e r 3 , 6 0 0 re s i d e n t s p a r t i c i p a t ed i n p u b li c i n p u t s e s s i o n s f o r t he Car ro llt o n RSVP. T hi s i ma g e s h o w s t h e RSV P To w n H all m e e t i n g o n Fe b r u ar y 28 , 20 23.

7 The voices of over 3,600 Carrollton residents combined to create the collective vision outlined in the city’s RSVP plan. The aspirations of these citizens and their collective desire for a more walkable, accessible, and vibrant downtown informed the priorities and vision included in the RSVP.

more entertaining, greener experience with expanded parks and amenities. Inspired by citizen input, UGA Institute of Government planning staff created dozens of unique design solutions for the city. The final plan is on schedule and will be completed in February 2024.

Final plan is on schedule and will be completed in February 2024.


Fellows in Focus: 12 Weeks of Student-Driven Downtown Revitalization

28 downtown fellowships since 2013 In just 12 weeks, student designers from the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellowship breathe life into downtowns, bringing creative solutions and technical assistance to support partner communities.

T. Clark Stancil, Fellows Program Coordinator

BAXLEY Appling County

ELBERTON Elbert County

City leaders in Elberton are actively transforming vacant Local leaders and entrepre-

downtown buildings into beau-

neurs are transforming the heart

tifully appointed residences and

of Baxley. Long-vacant properties

small businesses. Downtown

across downtown are undergoing

Fellow Sam Riggs created designs

renovation. Downtown Renais-

that envision a simplified and

sance Fellow Garrison Taylor

more pedestrian-friendly traffic

assisted the city’s revival with

arrangement around Elberton’s

designs that envision façade im-

downtown square. Riggs also

provements, improved accessibili-

created concepts for improving

ty, and a greener and more inviting

downtown corridors and links


to nearby parks and amenities.

Garrison Taylor

Sam Nash Riggs

The Georgia Downtown Renaissance from the UGA Foundation. Funding from Fellowship pairs student designers from the PROPEL program, GMA, and GCF althe UGA College of Environment at Design

lowed the fellowship to take place at no

(CED) with community partners to address cost to Baxley. Renaissance Fellow Garrison design challenges over the course of a 12-

Taylor created concepts to enhance down-

week summer fellowship. Fellows hone their

town walkability, provided property owners

design expertise under the direction and

with options to rejuvenate historic build-

oversight of full-time design and planning ings, and illustrated improvements to parks staff. Since 2013, 28 downtown fellowships and public spaces. Baxley’s committed local have taken place. Baxley’s Georgia Downtown Renaissance

leadership and the city’s Rural Zone designation are bringing rapid change downtown.

Fellowship emerged from the city’s partici- Several concepts envisioned in the fellowpation in the nationally recognized Planning ship plan have already been implemented, Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and including the renovation of multiple forEconomic Leadership (PROPEL) rural de- merly vacant storefronts. Two renovated velopment program, operated by the UGA buildings now house several local bouInstitute of Government and funded by the

tiques and a new flagship for The Soapery,

US Department of Agriculture with support a Savannah-based bath boutique.


In Progress


Lo cal e ntre pre n e u r s a re t ra n s f o r mi n g t h i s f o r m e r ly v acan t b u i ldi n g alo n g M ai n S t re e t i n B axle y into a pro ducti o n f a c i l i t y a n d s t o re f ro n t f o r T he S o ap e r y b at h b o u t i qu e . P i ct u re d are co n di t i o n s i n M ay 2 02 3 , th e re n d e r i n g i n t h e c i t y ’ s Re n a i s san ce Fe llo ws hi p p lan , an d t he i n -p ro gre s s re s t o rat i o n .



Elberton’s downtown fellowship at the square, and improving corriwas funded through the generous

dors around downtown. Following

support of partners at GMA and GCF

concepts pictured in the fellowship

as well as a $12,000 grant from the report, city leaders removed heavy Riverview Foundation. This support planters and benches that limited the allowed this project to be complet- usable space at the square. In October ed at no cost to the city. Designs by

2023, local leaders announced they

Elberton fellow Sam Nash Riggs ad- will move forward with improvedressed three primary goals of local ments envisioned around the square, leaders, including redesigning traffic including expanding sidewalks and circulation around the square, extend- landscaped bump-outs to encourage ing the programmable event space safer vehicular speeds.

Scan the QR code to view all Summer Fellowship Reports

Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellowship Program


Ongoing RSVP Design Support

Follow-up Assistance The partnership continues to support partner communities as they implement their RSVP plans. In 2023, UGA Institute of Government designers provided RSVP follow-up design assistance to the communities of Homerville, Hawkinsville, Thomson, and Ringgold. Following the delivery of the Homerville RSVP plan, UGA designers continued supporting downtown redevelopment in the community with concepts including an expanded plan for Panther Alley and surrounding buildings, façade designs for a new downtown business, a site plan for an expanding funeral home, and custom mural concepts that reflect the look of the RSVP report. Following Hawkinsville’s Rural Zone designation and the city’s 2021 RSVP, many downtown historic commercial buildings have been purchased and renovated. UGA Institute of Government designers assisted Hawkinsville with the creation of six unique façade design concepts to guide improvements and support local property owners. In Thomson, local leaders requested design assistance to create a logo for new downtown apartments developed in a historic fire station. The city’s 2020 RSVP originally included designs for the space. Just down the road, a railroad-themed park envisioned in the RSVP recently received a $2.2 million grant from the Governor’s office. Ringgold has been wildly successful enacting the city’s 2017 RSVP, and the city continues an impressive record of park development. UGA Institute of Government planners worked with the city to develop a master plan and renderings for a 14.5-acre park along South Chickamauga Creek. These concepts supported a Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program (GOSP) grant proposal.

In 2023, UGA Institute of Government designers provided RSVP followup design assistance to the communities of Homerville, Hawkinsville, Thomson, and Ringgold.


From Vision to Grants

South Chickamauga Creek Park UGA Institute of Government designers worked with local leaders in Ringgold to develop a plan and design concepts for a potential 14.5-acre park at a former industrial site along South Chickamauga Creek. Ringgold used these concepts to support a grant proposal for land acquisition.

RSVP Follow-up Design Assistance


Proposed (Climbing Wall)

Existing (Climbing Wall)

Proposed (Pavilion)

Existing (Pavilion)


Visualizing Possibilities:

Targeted Design Assistance in Action Targeted design assistance provides quick, cost-effective design solutions in the form of à la carte plans and design concepts. GCF and GMA provide these services through the partnership on a case-by-case basis. In 2023, the partnership provided targeted design assistance to the cities of Moultrie and Young Harris. Moultrie requested assistance to help visualize a new restaurant relocating to the city’s landmark Colquitt Theatre. Studio interior design professionals developed Art Deco-inspired signage, logo options, interior concepts, and a façade rendering showing how a local restaurant could be incorporated cohesively into the historic theater. In Young Harris, local leaders requested designs to support a master plan under development by the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission. Young Harris officials sought design support to envision a village center mixed-use infill development and residential infill options, requested improvements to make Main Street more inviting and pedestrian-friendly, and sought improvements to bring programming and amenities to existing green spaces.

15 UG A Institute o f Go v e r n me n t d e s i g n p ro f e s s i o n als i llu s t rat e d f açade i m p ro v e m e n t s fo r a re staurate u r re l o c a t i n g t o M o u l t r i e ’ s h is t o r i c Co lqu i t t T he at re . Inco rpo rating A r t D e c o t h e me s , f o n t s , a n d c o lo r s , Ro cco ’s It ali an Re s t au ran t co ul d o ffe r a no s t a l g i c d i n i n g e x p e r i e n c e u n l i ke an y o t he r i n M o u lt r i e .






CINDY EIDSON Managing Director

Senior Public Service Associate


Phone: (706) 583-0856

Phone: (678) 686-6207

Email: 201 N. Milledge Avenue Athens, GA 30602

CHRIS HIGDON Manager, Community Development Email:

Phone: (678) 651-1018

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