City feasibility studied by state
By Stephanie Johns
The BoomTown team presented its Feasibility Analysis a few weeks ago following two days of work in Madison. Those present heard suggestions for rehabilitating the Madison Gift Mart & Cafe, the BoomTown block and McDowell Grocery Warehouse.
BoomTown, a historic redevelopment program aimed at “Building Opportunity On Main (BOOM) Street,” focuses on reusing existing, underutilized structures. As part of the team’s work they looked at retail and service offerings, dining establishments and housing in downtown.
They also looked at the target market for those offerings: affluent retirees and working professionals. There are 630,000 restaurant patrons within a 30-minute drive and 3.7 million shoppers within a 60-minute drive of downtown.
The team looked over Madison Gift Mart & Café, including the basement but avoiding the attic. The 8,500 square-foot building has served as a hotel and a boarding house in the past. Potential uses for the building in future include having residential space upstairs and retail space on the main level.
The team designer, Carmine Fischetti with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), suggested bringing back a covered porch that ran along the length of the second floor of the building. This would require obtaining a right-of-way easement. Also, he suggested opening up the transom windows on the first floor.
Another team member, John Van Brunt, shared financial details of the suggested projects. He provided estimates of expenses as well as possible financial sources such as local banks, grants, state and federal funding opportunities.
For Madison Gift Mart, Van Brunt said it would cost around $715,000 or $90 per square foot to carry out the suggested renovations.
Nina Kelly, a planning and government services project manager with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC), identified potential uses for three portions of the Madison BoomTown block, which is comprised of Washington, First, Academy and Burnett streets.
The old NBC Realty building could have two apartments upstairs and a service retail space downstairs. The parking lot could benefit from aesthetic improvements, improved safety and efficiency of space allocation. The Livery Stable could have an upstairs anchor and a bike repair/rental shop downstairs.
Madison City Planning Director Monica Callahan said that this block was “one of the few” missing streetscapes found in the rest of downtown.
Van Brunt said the improvements to the realty building would cost almost $400,000 or about $110 per square foot to complete. Improvements to the stable would run around $450,000 or $65 per square foot.
Shelagh Fagan, a consultant with the DCA, said that McDowell Grocery was in the worst shape with no roof and weeds growing inside. The brick walls could be saved, though, she said, adding that renovation of this site will “eliminate slum and blight.”
Improving this site, partly by adding sidewalks, will be the first step in connecting the Canaan neighborhood to downtown.
Fagan said the improvements will have a “snowball effect” by contributing to the tax base and attracting reinvestment. Potential uses for this building include a restaurant relocation, a liquor store relocation and climatized storage.
The downside to this renovation, according to Fagan, would be the “very high” costs. As such, it is cost prohibitive for private individuals so they would look to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to rehab it.
Fischetti again stressed the importance of connecting the sidewalk to strengthen the overall downtown feel.
At almost $850,000, Van Brunt noted that this project might qualify for a redevelopment fund from the federal government. He said that this funding program to eliminate slum and blight must either benefit low to moderate income or job creation.
Callahan explained that the money from this fund – if applied for and granted – would go to the city, which in turn would loan the money to the DDA. The DDA would have to repay the loan and that money would then be loaned out to small businesses in the community looking to expand.
She then shared the next steps, which include turning ideas into community opportunities and working with the NEGRC. Main Street and the DDA will share information with property owners and help identify local leadership and partnership roles. Also, the DDA will consult with the DCA and NEGRC on one- and three-year plans.
Printed in the November 15, 2012 edition