Business boom in downtown Madison

Tia Lynn Ivey News

Strolling along the streets of Downtown Madison, one might notice a few prominent buildings standing dormant; the businesses once occupying them now gone.

Madison Gift Mart is the latest business to close, leaving 140 West Washington Street empty. The vacant property joins the list of other stagnant properties such as the old funeral home (Thomas Wagon Works) and Amici’s Madison’s old building on Main Street.

But Downtown Madison is not destined to become a ghost town. According to City Officials, 2018 is a “Year of Transition” for downtown heading toward an era of booming business and residential development.

“I hear people wondering if downtown is stagnant because there are a lot of vacancies, but there is an opportunity for rebirth next year,” said Director of City Planning Monica Callahan at last week’s Madison Mayor and City Council work session. “There is going to be a lot of activity. Right now, transition is happening.”

According to Callahan, a number of downtown properties have sold recently to investors eager to open new businesses and residential units.

“At present, 2018 is shaping up to be a year of transition,” announced city leaders on a monthly newsletter. “Long-term owners and short-term holders have sold properties.”

“Empty buildings and storefronts that have been unoccupied for a while are changing hands. Several are currently being renovated and plans are underway to fill these empty storefronts with new retail, restaurants, professional offices, and condos,” said Callahan. “All great additions to downtown.”

City of Madison leaders are particularly excited for two properties soon set for revamping.

“While Main Street will certainly lament the loss of the Clarks and landmark Madison Gift Mart, all can celebrate the pending conversion of the ‘Swords Building’ into its next stage of ownership and life,” said the City of Madison’s monthly newsletter. “Preston Snyder, new owner of the Clarks’ property, plans for residential upper units and downstairs commercial. He has also acquired the long-empty funeral home, or ‘Thompson Wagon Works,’ and will rehabilitate it along similar lines.”

According to the City, Snyder’s vision for the old funeral home and old Madison Gift Mart will soon become reality.

“Mr. Snyder is an experienced investor who does not sit with empty buildings, so stay tuned for plan reveals, hammers flying, and new occupancies,” said the City’s newsletter.

Other properties that have recently sold include the historic “Bank of Morgan County,” which resided in the left side of the Ye Olde Colonial, the new tea room, and professional condos next to Town 220. Several properties on North Second Street have also sold.  The new ownership of several iconic buildings also brings new plans for new business and new downtown living options. According to Callahan, within the next three years, Downtown Madison is poised to see a whopping 70 new units open.

“Expectations are very high that these investors will be making improvements concurrent with the culminations of the multi-year rehabilitation of Madison Assisted Living and new investments into the West Washington Gateway, following this year’s infrastructure improvements by the Downtown Development Authority.”

In addition to downtown business and residential growth, city leaders are looking forward to the completion of The Central of Georgia Depot restoration project. City leaders are hoping new recreational components to downtown, like the restored train depot, will appeal to every age.

“When completed, the Depot will serve as a trailhead for the future Madison Greenway, envisioned as a citywide trail system attractive to millennials and retirees alike,” said Callahan. Thoughtful rehabilitation will enable it to serve as an event facility, history/art center, private offices, etc. How’s that for change?”

Callahan encouraged the Madison Mayor and City Council to stay positive as years of investing into Downtown Madison’s infrastructure, parking, streetscape, and tree canopy will soon pay off.

“Next year is going to be very exciting for downtown Madison,” said Callahan. “Don’t worry about today because tomorrow is going to be much brighter.”

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