By Stephanie Johns
More than 20 people showed up for the Town Hall meeting put on by Madison last Thursday, July 11.
Planning Director and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Executive Director Monica Callahan began by thanking the Rev. Cedric Cotton of St. Paul’s AME Church for their generosity in allowing them to make use of their facility for free.
She then shared details about a couple of projects going on in the Canaan neighborhood.
The first, a stormwater project, will address water that collects around residents’ homes and floods portions of the streets in that area.
“We’re addressing the most egregious problem first,” she said.
Streets affected for this particular stormwater project include Burney, Eliza Morris, Mapp, Pearl, and White Hall, which will receive some curb and gutter work.
“We need seven easements for the current plan to work,” she said, noting that they currently have one on hand. “We hope to start this fall.”
Once the project has been completed, stormwater will be collected and run into underground pipes.
The second project, a 5,000 square-foot multi-use facility, will offer a variety of opportunities for residents.
Located at the Gilmore House on Burney Street, tentative floor plans call for three efficiency apartments upstairs, a community room downstairs in the back, a commercial grade kitchen and cannery, and incubator space for businesses.
“It is possible to start up small businesses in little spaces,” she said.
The first floor will be handicap accessible while the apartments will be accessible by a new, exterior staircase.
A corner grocery store will go in where the pink building currently stands on the property. Callahan said, per residents’ request, it will not sell alcohol.
She added that they have turned in a grant application for this project and that an interested tenant has come forward.
“This will bring groceries within walking distance,” she said.
Work on the Gilmore House should begin this fall. Both the house and the corner grocery store should be ready by next spring or summer.
Next to speak were three ladies from Harvest of the Heart Garden (HHG).
HHG Co-director Deb Foster shared that HHG, a six-year-old local non-profit that grows and distributes fresh produce to those in need in the community, will “serve food and faith” to those in need.
Co-director Amanda Dalton will serve as cannery director. She shared that the cannery will be open to the public for use 10 to 12 hours per week. Hours have yet to be determined.
“With the cannery we can put up food and distribute food during times it’s lean for us,” she said. She added that because of the cannery they will be able to “distribute fresh food all year long.”
Also, Dalton said HHG plans to offer classes on both the water bath and pressurized canning methods to “take the fear out of food preservation.”
“If it’s done properly, there’s no reason to fear canning,” she said.
Once people learn how to can, they can make use of the cannery, which will be certified by the Department of Agriculture, she said.
“You can prepare, produce, and package it right there,” she said.
Both Dalton and Callahan said that in order to sell food goods, the food must be made in a Department of Agriculture-certified kitchen.
“Snellville has the closest cannery right now,” Dalton said. The Gilmore House cannery will offer people the opportunity to open their own cottage industry. “It will have a low overhead. It’s a great opportunity for everyone.”
She shared that HHG will sell its own branded items, from tomato sauces and salsas to jams and jellies.
HHG Founder Jewel Hatcher said HHG is “a labor of love” and that they are 90 to 95 percent volunteer run.
She said she was excited to learn that the cannery will serve the Canaan neighborhood as Canaan means “promised land.”
The same week Callahan contacted Hatcher about the cannery HHG applied for a grant.
“It was a God thing,” she said, prompting an “Amen” from Cotton.
She noted that HHG grows and distributes nine tons of vegetables, or food for about 12,000 individual meals, every year.
“We’ve got a passion to come in here and love on you and give you fresh vegetables,” she said.
HHG shared tomatoes and eggplants with those in attendance.
Sherry Terrell, Neighborhood Action Group Liaison, then encouraged those present to join the group, thereby taking an active – not reactive – role in the community: “We definitely need people to help make this successful.”
She suggested each person in the room participate and get one other person to agree to participate.
“I’m excited about this,” she said. “Madison has developed all around this area … this area has not developed.”
Cotton agreed: “This is better than 12 years ago. I didn’t see any progress.”
He added that he approached Callahan about his concerns.
“I’m pleased and impressed with the process of how things are taking shape,” he said. “This will really fill in the gaps. I like what I see.”
Gilmore House Update
Work on the Gilmore House should begin this fall, with the house and the corner grocery store being ready by spring or summer 2014.