The results of a nine-month master plan developed by consultants of the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia were unveiled during a 90-minute presentation to Rome commissioners, Downtown Development Authority board members and interested downtown business leaders.
Consultant Danny Bivins took the group through a tour of downtown, discussing ways to expand the look and aesthetic appeal of Broad Street from the Cotton Block to Turner McCall, across the Oostanaula out Fifth Avenue and along West Third Street.
Much of the focus of the plan to is to create a consistent look with expansion of Streetscape-type tree plantings and sidewalk improvements. Developing a uniform plan for dealing with vacant storefronts was also at the forefront of the conversation.
“I really want to commend you. Most consultants try to impose their ideas on you,” said City Manager John Bennett. “You evidently are a very good listener.”
Bivins told the group of about two-dozen officials that Rome has the leadership and the right staff to make things happen.
“You guys are a can-do, and do, community,” Bivins said.
Nevertheless, he had a few suggestions.
“When you turn onto Broad Street (from Turner McCall) you don’t really think you’re downtown until you reach the Carnegie Building or City Hall,” Bivins said.
He suggested a thinner median with trees from Sixth Avenue all the way to Turner McCall Boulevard.
Planting of trees outside the DOT right of way on Turner McCall from the Etowah River Bridge to the hilltop just past West First Street would help provide the type of consistency his team of consultants are recommending.
He said that with the development of a Publix at Fifth Avenue and Turner McCall that “downtown” Rome is getting its long sought after grocery store.
“Fifth Avenue now more than ever needs to be considered,” Bivins said.
The Fanning Institute team is proposing an arts district for the Fifth Avenue corridor and would like to see some Grade A office space developed along West Third Street to complement the proposed hotel development and medical community that exists in that area.
While aware that the Georgia DOT and city of Rome have major plans for the improvement of the Second Avenue corridor from the Oostanaula River to Turner McCall Boulevard, Bivins said that one of the ways to enhance that gateway to downtown Rome might simply involve painting a mural on the corrugated metal retaining wall at Second Avenue and West Third Street.
Bivins also suggested that the community could take much better advantage of its river resources. One idea he pitched to the community leaders was to convert an old houseboat into an outdoor outfitters business with canoe or kayak rentals. He also envisioned improvements to both of the levees in the downtown district, possibly to include some sort of terraced-seating to facilitate events on the rivers.
“You’re not talking about an extraordinary amount of money to make a tremendous impact,” City Commissioner Sue Lee said,
A full print draft of the report is not expected to be ready until 2013.