The Athens Downtown Development Authority met Feb. 18, although without a quorum no voting occurred and some business was pushed to next month’s meeting.
The Georgia Downtown Conference is set for Mar. 8–11 at the Classic Center and Graduate Athens. A discount will be available for Athens businesses to showcase their products or services; the normally $700 price for a booth, which includes a two-day exhibit and networking opportunities, will cost local business owners only $200.
While the beautification project for downtown has been extended, other projects are underway. New banners for downtown have been completed by artist Heidi Hensley, and 120 have been ordered, twice as many as are currently on display. Four designs will be featured. Mayor Nancy Denson has asked that the tree lights on Clayton Street, typically used only in the holiday season, be kept on year-long, and that the twinkling canopy be recreated on other downtown streets as well. The four gateways into downtown—North Avenue, Prince Avenue and both ends of Broad Street—are being considered as sites for public art welcoming visitors.
Most discussed was the perennial issue of parking. Fifty-five new meters have been approved for formerly free spaces on Strong Street and the Dougherty Extension. Pending approval, 72 more will be added along Dougherty Street, which would become a two-lane road with a turning lane in the middle. While parking rates are set by the Mayor and Commission, there was discussion on changing the rates so that the more central downtown meters would be more costly than those farther out.
The plan to put Dougherty Street on a road diet by converting two travel lanes into on-street parking looks like it will sail through Mar. 1 after the Athens-Clarke County Commission’s Feb. 17 agenda-setting meeting.
Rather than serving as a bypass around downtown that separates it from neighborhoods to the north, Dougherty Street will become more integrated into downtown, Commissioner Kelly Girtz said. “Dougherty will become much more like Hancock is today,” he said. Commissioner Harry Sims predicted it will become more like the three-lane portion of Hawthorne Avenue (although Dougherty carries less traffic), but he was the only commissioner to object.
A Planning Department proposal to allow larger “accessory structures,” such as sheds and garages, on single-family properties also drew praise. The new rule would increase the maximum size of an accessory structure from 25 percent to 50 percent of the main structure. That would be about 500 square feet for a typical small intown cottage, the size of a garage with office space above it. Girtz and Commissioner Melissa Link said it might discourage buyers and developers from tearing down smaller intown homes. [BA]
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