HYPE discuss downtown development

Published 5:47 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

The Helping Young Professionals Engage group hosted a lunch talk on the economic development of the downtown areas in Troup County Thursday. The lunch was hosted at the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

Lynne Miller, Hogansville Community Development Director, talked about Hogansville’s history and recent developments with the city. The city was established around 1840, when William Hogan had a railroad depot built in the city.

“Hogansville is a historic railroad town and has two large national registered districts,” Miller said.

Miller spoke about the downtown revitalization masterplan that was created by the Georgia Conservancy and approved by the Hogansville City Council this year.

“The plan notes that we’re partly there already because we have a walkable downtown. We have historic buildings that are, for the most part, structurally sound,” Miller said. “We have interesting historic buildings, and we have some unique shops and maker spaces now and some regular festivals.”

Miller talked about the Hogansville Hummingbird Festival and how it is sponsored by the Hogansville Charitable Trust, which uses the proceeds to pay for downtown improvements. Miller said the trust has raised more than $400,000 from festivals and leveraged $5 million in grants for the city.

Miller said the city has recently applied for a historic marker to commemorate the city’s former postmaster, Isaiah Loftin.

“He survived an assassination attempt in Hogansville in 1897, and this was a big deal,” Miller said. “It was called The Hogansville Affair, and it actually received national publicity, and it actually contributed to the formation of the NAACP.”

Meghan Duke, economic development director for the West Point Development Authority, talked about West Point’s industries and downtown developments. Duke said with Kia Motor Manufacturing Georgia’s plant in West Point, there are more than 6,000 automotive related jobs in the city.

“Our residential population is approximately 3,500 people, very similar to Hogansville, but on a daily basis we have about 7,000 people from outside of West Point traveling to West Point for a job,” Duke said.

Duke said about 1,000 people who live in the city travel outside it for work.

Duke said the second biggest economic impact for the city is Point University, which moved to the city in 2012.

“On an annual basis, Point University makes about a $31 million impact on community,” Duke said.

West Pointwas formerly built around textile mills. Duke said the West Point 2100 public/private partnership has worked with the city in getting grants to restore downtown West Point. Duke said the partnership worked on Johnny’s Pizza and New Horizon Community Theatre.

Duke said other projects included making new sidewalks, seating, trees and greenspace in the downtown area. Duke said they recently purchased 12 acres of land on the Chattahoochee River that was previously a wood yard.

“As a city organization, our is job is really to create a safe environment,” Duke said.

Bill Hunnicutt, executive director for the LaGrange Downtown Development Authority, spoke about attracting millennials living in downtown spaces.

“To be vibrant, all downtowns need to live work and play. We’ve got the play and the work down, but we currently have three people living in our downtown area total and they’re all older retirees,” Hunnicutt said. “The question we have is how do we attract millennials downtown if we have the space?”

Hunnicutt talked about LaGrange DDA projects from renovating Sweetland Amphitheatre and its upcoming ice rink for the winter season, to the skate park and dog park by Wild Leap Brew Co. Hunnicutt said there are 98 businesses in downtown LaGrange.