Members of the City of Thomasville recently accepted two awards from the Georgia Downtown Association. The awards were in recognition of the Creative District Vision Plan and the West Jackson Streetscape Project. According to City Manager Alan Carson, these awards represent the efforts of many in the community who believed in the vision for the area of West Jackson Street known as The Bottom District.
“These awards are something that all of Thomasville can be proud of, because it represents what we as a community have accomplished together,” said Carson. “What first began as a vision is now literally transforming an area of downtown Thomasville before our eyes. There have been many departments and many hours from Team Thomasville invested in making these plans a reality, and I’m very proud of their efforts.”
The first award recognizes the Creative District Vision Plan for Best Design/Placemaking Project. While this award was received this year, the concept of what would become the Creative District was envisioned five years earlier in 2014. It was then that a community design planning session allowed City staff and community leaders to create a master plan for this area of downtown.
“The Bottom District, which was envision to become our Creative District, is one with rich history that is significant to our African-American community, and establishing a plan that would embrace the area’s cultural heritage while also leveraging the energy of the business community for this area was important,” said April Norton, Main Street and Business Development Director. “Together, a multi-year plan was developed that was targeted at increasing economic opportunity, revitalizing the historic area, and bringing creative community resources together in this important segment of downtown Thomasville.”
The elements of the vision plan included creating a walkable and connected community, developing a business and entrepreneur friendly environment, activating space, and preserving the historic and creative-themed identity. “This plan also identified three major downtown projects: the community trailhead, the downtown amphitheater and park and a streetscape project,” said Norton. “We’ve accomplished the trailhead and amphitheater, and we are well on our way to completing the streetscape project as well.”
The second award Thomasville received is for the West Jackson Streetscape Project in recognition of Outstanding Promotional Campaign. Much like the Creative District Vision Plan that came before, the West Jackson Streetscape began in 2017 with a mission to incorporate public input as a key factor in what would ultimately become the final design for this project. “From asking ‘what if…,’ a final design was developed directly from the feedback and input provided in over fifteen public engagement sessions, including discovery walks and round table discussions,” said Norton. “The input revealed that there were five key areas that were important to consider as the project moved forward, including improving access to parking, increasing safety for people, improving the sidewalks, preserving the character and filling the empty storefronts.”
Norton said that these awards also recognize the important role The Bottom District plays in the overall economic vitality of downtown Thomasville. “To date, The Bottom District has seen over $8 million in public and private investment and a net gain of 30 new businesses, providing over 160 new job opportunities,” she said. She also shared that it is important to have our downtown connect to surrounding neighborhoods, creating a walkable and bike friendly thoroughfare. “This revitalization is one our entire community can be proud of, as we honor and preserve the history of the area, while sparking economic growth and improvements for generations to come.”
Carson said that there are many who played an important role in the success of these projects and who share in the excitement of these awards. “Ultimately, these projects have been good for downtown Thomasville and our community. We now have the beautiful Ritz Amphitheater and park and a revitalized portion of West Jackson Street to enjoy as a direct result of our combined efforts,” he said. "Projects such as these don’t just happen; it takes planning and participation from an engaged community.”
Construction for the West Jackson Streetscape project, which began in April 2019, is now in the final stages and is expected to be completed in November of this year.
The Bottom District merchants, community leaders and City of Thomasville staff stand behind the success and awards presented to the City by the Georgia Downtown Association.