Changes to the Midtown lot on East First Street are expected to be complete by mid-December, and the new lot at the corner of Broad Street and East Third Avenue should be open within two weeks, though it won’t be paved until after the first of the year.
The Downtown Development Authority gave final approval to a 25-year lease agreement with First Presbyterian Church for a swap of space that will give the DDA complete control over the lot behind Harvest Moon and Mellow Mushroom, while the church will get additional space adjacent to their building as the Midtown bus station lot gets reconfigured.
“The annex lot has been difficult to manage,” Downtown Parking Manager Becky Smyth said, with some spaces in the past reserved for the church, some leased to businesses and just a handful available to the public.
“This project is huge,” said DDA Director Ann Arnold.
The new lot at Third and Broad, where developer Ira Levy won approval for demolition of the old Top Hat Formal Wear building, had some issues with drainage and compaction in the wake of the demolition project.
Smyth said some of the fill dirt had to be taken out and a new layer of rock and gravel has been put down but that city crews will not be able to pave the lot until after the first of the year. It will however be open soon for public parking.
“It has really opened up that block,” said DDA member Steve White. “The area has such a different feel to it.”
Alice Herring, another DDA member and partner at Ford, Gittings & Kane Jewelers, said that during compaction of the lot, she could feel the shaking in the store.
“I’m so happy to see it even with some of the bumps in the road,” Herring said.
The DDA approved amendments to 10-year loans with the Forrest Place LLC group led by Levy. The original Department of Community Affairs and Georgia Cities $250,000 loans in 2002 were for 10-year notes with a balloon. The amendments will extend payments out over another 59 months.
Arnold also reported that she has been involved with a Georgia Municipal Association panel that is developing a Georgia Downtown Renaissance Act, which will be submitted to the legislature in January.
“It’s still being developed,” said Arnold.
The idea is to provide additional state incentives for downtown communities that have been successful in the past, not strictly for those which need money for rejuvenation.
“It’s been phenomenal to see how the focus has changed, to see GMA take the lead they have,” Arnold said. “We already have some interest in projects. Good things are coming.”
Arnold said the downtown district has seen a net gain of 85 new jobs in 2012.
“It’s unbelievable that we can continue to have that kind of gain,” Arnold said.