City council discusses possible new business district

Published 7:54 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2018

With little choice but to wait on the Georgia Department of Transportation to repair the Greenville Street bridge, the LaGrange City Council discussed Tuesday how to help businesses that have been cut off from through traffic for about two years.

Council Member Nathan Gaskin proposed that the city create a business district for the small businesses on Greenville Street, complete with wayfinding signs to encourage people to visit those businesses. That proposal was met with further discussion on the future of Greenville Street as one of LaGrange’s gateway corridors.

“Greenville Street has essentially been turned into a dead-end street with the bridge being out, and everyone is clamoring to get people to come down their street,” Gaskin said. “What if we created a Greenville Street business district? By creating that district, we could actually add a sign on Lafayette Parkway — right there at the Horace King bridge — that says Greenville Street business district. That way people [will] know there are businesses down here.”

The discussion stemmed from a zoning change request for Traylor’s Pawn from neighborhood commercial to general commercial, which would allow the business to display a digital sign visible from the Lafayette Parkway side of the business.

The surrounding properties on Greenville Street are zoned as neighborhood commercial or general commercial, so the zoning change would still be consistent with the area.

During a discussion on the sign in a June council meeting, Bobby Traylor said that the sign was needed in order to attract business from Lafayette Parkway.

“I have talked to a couple business owners [from that area], and they kind of like that idea because Greenville Street has been turned into a dead-end street,” Gaskin said. “Nobody travels through there. It used to be the cut through to avoid some of the traffic, and hopefully it will be again.”

The Greenville Street bridge closed in 2016 due to damage. GDOT announced in February plans to renovate the bridge this summer, but it is unclear when the bridge will reopen.

Once it does reopen, the road is expected to regain its status as one of the city’s gateway corridors, the city’s name for the roadways that are most often used to enter and exit the city.

“When they went around and looked at all of the gateways [in the Gateway Corridor Plan], they identified Whitesville Street and Greenville Street as the first two, top two priorities,” Mayor Jim Thornton said.

“I think in both instances you have a mix of commercial and residential. You have a lot of through traffic, but you’d also like to create more of a pedestrian feel to it.”

According to Thornton, the City of LaGrange has been working with the Calumet neighborhood and Three Points neighborhood to revitalize those areas on either side of Greenville Street. He said the signage could build on the work already being done in those areas.

“Those neighborhoods are working together, and that group meets here [at city hall] quarterly,” City Planner Leigh Threadgill said.

Thornton compared the proposed signage to the wayfinding signs that encourage drivers to visit downtown LaGrange.

“It is the same reason that the Downtown [LaGrange] Development Authority has been interested in putting in wayfinding signage to get people off Morgan [Street] to shoot them over to Main and Bull [streets],” Thornton said.

The council also expressed a desire to see the Dawson Street School find a new use and for Dixie Mill to be somehow redeveloped.

The former school is owned by the city, but the former Dixie Mill property is owned privately.

“[The Dawson Street School property] could become a central core development, if we can figure out the right development to go there,” Thornton said.

Threadgill said the planning board has discussed opportunities in the neighborhood, including the school.

No official decision was reached on the proposal on Tuesday.

The LaGrange City Council is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, July 24, at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.