Council members viewed potential designs last week for a proposed multi-use farmers’ market facility and voiced approval to move forward with a proposed food truck court to be located between United Bank and Piggly Wiggly.
Trey Gavin, senior vice president and partner with ESG Engineering, presented an open-air design for the multi-use facility under consideration for the corner of East Gordon and Hightower Streets, estimated to cost between $900,000 and $1 million.
The 54-foot by 120-foot pavilion style structure shown to council featured a large fireplace at one end, detached bathrooms and storage, courtyards, and a possible concession area to create a “farmers’ market feel,” Gavin said.
“This facility [would accommodate] any type of event, including music within the Entertainment District,” City Manager Russell Thompson told board members. “One of the common themes in downtown development is a need for public restrooms, and this also would provider spillover parking with proximity to downtown.”
Thompson noted that concerts held on the square require approval of the Georgia Department of Transportation for closure of state routes. If necessary, similar events could be held at the proposed location without interrupting traffic flow through downtown.
Gavin said he had pursued grants to offset expense, but supplemental funding is “not promising.” In a previous meeting, Thompson told council the debt service for the proposed facility has been budgeted.
Thompson added that city staff approached county officials regarding a partnership with the Upson County Commission, including the facility in joint projects with a modification to the current master services agreement.
“The chairman (Norman Allen) has reached out and there is at least some support at the county level for participation in exchange for developmental input on design and operation,” Thompson said. “As we’re in the [early] stage of development… do we envision it as being a city project, or do we want to pursue participation?”
“I think it would be wise to meet with community stakeholders for input, but I can’t imagine anybody who’s invested in downtown would view this as a negative,” Councilman Ryan Tucker said. “It’s just important to get everyone on the same page.”
Thompson noted that the city has seen approximately $7 million in private investment during the last year.
“It’s important to illustrate that we’re willing to invest in our own downtown to bolster the environment with public resources and amenities,” he said.
A permanent location for a farmers’ market was among top priorities of a resident survey conducted during the Heart & Soul initiative, a collaborative effort between the City of Thomaston and Upson County.
A second, less costly project, involves property off Railroad Street, which connects North Center and North Church streets between United Bank and Piggly Wiggly.
“The intent is to regulate food trucks within the corporate limits of the city to concentrate them in one area of commerce, where they’re not close to another restaurant or similar type business,” Thompson explained. “But they also have general access to traffic and marketability. This property stood out because of the location.”
The location provides exposure, in both directions, on the busiest corridor through downtown.
“We have limited space and a limited budget,” said Public Works Director Kyle McGee, who described the proposed court as an area where patrons could “grab to go” or “sit and picnic.”
McGee said a one-way, east-to-west lane could be created north of Railroad Street, with diagonal parking on the north side and food truck areas on the south side. He said he envisions a “courtyard look” with landscaping, including trees which are “ready to be planted.”
Economic Development Coordinator Taylor Smith said the food court would be a “good opportunity” for start-up restaurants which could develop into new “brick-and-mortar” businesses in Thomaston.
Thompson said the city could lease the property from owner Norfolk Southern Railroad for $1 per year and make a substantial “aesthetic improvement” in the north downtown area. The city would be responsible for required insurance, and likely would charge a fee for food trucks to participate.
In other business, Thompson said two city departments are using the northern 30 acres of a Pobiddy Road tract co-owned by the county for “borrow dirt.” The city and county are slated to auction the property and split proceeds.
“For many years, the city has been clipping the top of this hill [for fill dirt],” McGee said. If we lose our source of dirt, we’d have to purchase dirt, and it is not cheap. Right now, we have free dirt… a large amount.”
Thompson said his recommendation is to propose to county officials that the remainder of the property be auctioned, then pay the county its portion of the 30 acres in question from proceeds of the other sales.
Council also voted to approve a $28,384 expense for purchase of a side-by-side off-road vehicle for Thomaston Fire Department.
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