By Tia Lynn Ivey
The city of Madison was on full display last week, held up as a shining example of small town revitalization and historic preservation. About 45 elected officials and members of Downtown Development authorities from across the State of Georgia visited Madison for the 2017 Heart and Soul Downtown Workshop through the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).
The six-hour conference included walking tours of downtown Madison and presentations by city staff chronicling the evolution of downtown throughout the years.
The city earned high praise from Perry Hiott, director of Community Development and Financial Services for the GMA.
“Words cannot adequately express my appreciation to each of you for your efforts in preparing for yesterday’s 2017 Heart & Soul Tour Downtown Workshop in Madison,” wrote Hiott to city staff after the conference. “The information that our participants received – including the packet materials, presentations, and walking tour projects – was exceptional, and the meals and refreshments were delicious! While there were many reasons why we wanted to visit Madison during our first revamped Heart & Soul workshop, a key reason was because of the professional downtown staff that is in place in your city. We knew you would do an outstanding job, and you were phenomenal! Thanks so much for your hard work!”
“The GMA Heart & Soul Downtown Workshop was fully booked and very quickly too,” said City Planning Director Monica Callahan. “ Attendees were highly complimentary of our DDA (Downtown Development Authority) – their approach, their accomplishments, and their aspirations. I look forward to sharing the praise with current and former DDA directors; they deserve the credit.”
City leaders were encouraged by the workshop, inspired to continue improving downtown Madison in the future.
“Our staff is revered across the state for mindful planning and historic preservation,” said City Councilwoman Chris Hodges, who attended the workshop last week. “We are so fortunate to have them…I stand in awe in of what they do—the commitment they have made to our community. We owe a debt of gratitude to our staff who have always looked for ways to improve the city while protecting our historic resources.”
City staff focused on the transformation of Town Park as the crowning jewel of the city that facilitates many of the community events throughout the year. City staff also showed before and after pictures from Downtown, focusing on the impact project like Town Park, The Icehouse, The James Madison Inn, Silver Lakes, The West Washington Gateway, and some residential improvements have revitalized the downtown area for residents and the local economy.
“People forget what Town Pak used to look like before it was revitalized,” said City Manager David Nunn. “I am very proud for the city and the people of Madison that these improvement have been made and these areas have been redeveloped for the betterment of the whole community.”
The GMA participants travelled to Madison to learn how to replicate some of the city’s strategies for revitalization, including private partnerships, funding, grants, maintenance and design. City leaders were reinvigorated to press on for future city projects after the workshop.
“It was just a good reminder of what we have and what could be,” said Nunn. “We are always looking for what our eye sees next and what we want to do to push beyond what is now…We definitely have a lot more opportunities to do great thing in this city with our gateways and urban redevelopment areas.”