Mainstreet Retreat Discusses Goals for Downtown

Published 3:22 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

Emily Davenport, member services consultant for the Georgia Municipal Association facilitated Mainstreet’s retreat on the 3rd floor of Town Hall. Qaijuan Willis also addressed those gathered with Mainstreet updates.

A few of the accomplishments he listed were sponsoring the digital marketing bootcamp with SBDC and awarding all $25,000 of the façade grant. The grant allowed local businesses to improve their exterior, beautifying the downtown. Willis also mentioned that they had purchased and installed three new trashcans and two benches. He also mentioned educational outreach.
“We hosted four Georgia Downtown Association Certified Downtown Professional Training Courses. That is a set of courses for downtown professionals, mayors, counsel members, anybody who wants to know more about downtown, you can take these courses to better your knowledge, whether it be financial, or roles and responsibilities of a director, how to host an event, or how to have a strategic plan created and how to implement that plan.”

Willis also mentioned that they hosted their 40th year reception at The Windsor. He mentioned a total of 26 events hosted, including Beer Fest, First Fridays, Taste of Sumter, and Christmas Parade.

After the updates, several strategies for improving the Downtown were discussed. Willis mentioned the Downtown Development Authority had advocated enforcement of the blight tax, which was previously unenforced, and now Building Inspections were beginning the enforcement process. Davenport mentioned the need to make sure fines are strong enough to ensure enforcement.

Yorka Ralwins, owner of The Spot, mentioned the need for clear guidelines for new businesses. Davenport stressed the need to set up fast plan review for new businesses. Ralwins also mentioned that practical considerations from new business growth also had to be considered, like increased need for garbage services as new restaurants open.

Kenny Phillips, owner of Scoops Ice Cream, brought up the lack of wi-fi at the fairgrounds, making it difficult for vendors to take cards from customers.

Jennifer English reported that plans to close Jackson Street entirely to vehicles had changed. English mentioned that while they had decided not to pursue closing it to vehicles, making a restriction to compact vehicles only might help make it more pedestrian friendly.

Davenport read merchant feedback, listing the favorite events as First Fridays, Wine and Chocolate Walk, Small Business Weekend, Holiday Open House, and the Hot Glass Craft Beer Festival. Merchant concerns included crepe myrtles, unattractive light boxes, and desire for Christmas lights earlier in the year. Davenport mentioned that overhead power lines and underground lines would have to be considered when planting trees downtown. Davenport mentioned that single stem crepe myrtles that were not topped were an option.

Another future goal was researching feasibility for downtown restrooms. Rob Ceresoli suggested portable options for festivals. Research into the feasibility of a physical location was also listed as a goal.