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Jonesboro planning trails, shops to revive downtown

August 5, 2018

JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) — The city of Jonesboro is looking to revive its downtown.

The Clayton County seat is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate downtown buildings, build parks and create a more pedestrian-friendly center city to drive resident, business and tourist foot traffic similar to what is occurring in Duluth, Suwanee and Lawrenceville.

Jonesboro, a city of about 4,800 residents, is making the changes as south metro leaders try to offer more reasons why residents and businesses should move south of Interstate 20, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“The key to any successful downtown is making it walkable,” Jonesboro City Manager Ricky Clark said recently during a tour of the new Lee Street Park, which has become a centerpiece in the town’s revival.

Jonesboro started its revitalization in 2015 with the construction of the park, murals painted on brick walls along Main Street and the demolition of blighted buildings along its historic Broad Street. Last month the city started the second round of development, including constructing trails, a second park to offer more downtown green space and a new government building to house the Jonesboro Police Department and City Hall.

Leaders are offering incentives at business parks, reworking congested corridors and visiting cities such as Suwanee and Duluth to get a template to energize their downtowns.

“The only place for people to come that is still affordable is the southside of the region. You don’t deal with the traffic. And as a bonus, you’re only 15 miles away from anywhere you want to go in the world,” Clark said, referring to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which is in Clayton County.

Bonnie Shekarabi, project manager for the soon-to-open Fig Tree Cafe on Main Street, said a thriving downtown is critical to making a community attractive.

“We’re putting together a nice mix of options here so that when someone parks, they can get out and do a couple of things, like get a cup of coffee, go shopping and hit a museum,” she said.

Jared Lombard, a senior principal planner for the Atlanta Regional Commission, said revitalizing the town square is not only good for cities, it’s smart governance. The federal government sets aside about $500 million annually for the Livable Cities Initiative, which helps municipalities install sidewalks, roundabouts, medians, lighting or other pedestrian and bike friendly projects.

ARC provides about $1 million of the grants to Georgia cities annually, including $154,000 it has given Jonesboro in two grants, Lombard said. Municipalities match the grants at 20 percent.

“We are seeing the revitalization of downtowns throughout the region,” he said. “People are seeking that community identity.”

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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