Downtown, university grow together

Published 9:32 pm Saturday, March 21, 2009

Restaurants, shopping outlets, loft apartments, bars and hotels are all things that can be found in many thriving downtown areas. In the next 20 years, those are things Troy’s downtown may see, as well.

Though it hasn’t been approved yet, the city of Troy’s Comprehensive Community Master Plan has big ideas when it comes to its downtown.

“I get corny sometimes and talk about how in small town America, downtown is very critical,” said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford. “The downtown is absolutely critical to the development of any community.”

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And so through countless committee meetings, work sessions and public hearings, plan drafters, Planning Commission members and Troy residents have formed a draft that includes detailed downtown revitalization.

From growth in business development, to new transportation connectors, the almost final copy of the city’s long-range plan keeps downtown in its heart.

But, downtown growth goes hand in hand with one of the city’s largest growing institutions — Troy University.

With the help of Troy University officials, the plan calls for a “University/City District.”

Through this implementation, City Planner Calvin Lott said the area between downtown and Troy University could be made into numerous uses, like apartments or business development.

“It’s a long range plan, and what we would be looking at is proposals that come in for developers and landowners and how we can take those plans and work them into the long range plan,” Lott said.

But perhaps one of the biggest ideas in a downtown/university transition is to create more pedestrian friendly areas to connect the two.

“We are fortunate because a lot of downtown is in walking distance,” said John Schmidt, Troy University’s senior vice chancellor of advancement and external relations, who participated some in the planning ideas. “So I think if you could create pedestrian-friendly areas that could connect to the downtown area, you might have more student traffic down there.”

Both a growing downtown and Troy University could both benefit one another, Lunsford and Schmidt both said.

“The students pay utility bills, and they do all kinds of thing in our downtown area already,” Lunsford said.

And more events or businesses will undoubtedly draw even more students into the city’s heart, Schmidt said.

“I would envision at some point in time new restaurants, coffee houses, areas that could attract as the university grows and students look for outlets for rest and places to gather, I would see those areas being developed downtown,” Schmidt said.

The plan will now go before the Troy City Council for one last public hearing and a final approval.