City gets OK on downtown grant

Published 7:42 pm Friday, October 24, 2014

Efforts to revitalize downtown Troy got a boost this week as the city learned it will receive a $40,000 state grant to facilitate revitalization efforts.

“We’re excited about this grant,” said Melissa Sanders, planning administrator for the city. “One single project cannot revitalize a downtown area, and we know that it’s going to take an ongoing initiative and project.

“This planning grant will help us define the vision and the plan.”

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The Community Development Block Grant will be paired with a $10,000 match from the City of Troy, providing $50,000 for the project.

The plan will formulate long-range strategies that will promote and encourage economic growth in the city’s central business district (including the Square) and secondary areas such as Railroad Avenue, Murphree Street, Madison Street, Elm Street and Three Notch Street. It will address issues from parking to building use, streetscapes to public spaces, future use and growth of the area.

“We’re going to partner with the South Central Alabama Development Commission, who will serve as the facilitator in developing the plan,” Sanders said. Although the timeline has not been finalized, Sanders said the groups will use a variety of public meetings, online surveys and building inventories to take stock of existing opportunities and seek a cross-section of public input on ideas for growth, revitalization and the future.

“We hope to bring all the ideas and visions of everyone together to form one vision, one plan for the future of downtown,” she said.

Ocne the plan is completed, Sanders said the different stakeholders involved in the process – such as landowners, retailers and government leaders – will have a clear focus of what their roles will be in revitalization efforts.

Sanders said the need to create a master plan for revitalizing downtown comes from the city’s overall strategic plan, which identified ongoing efforts to improve downtown – from historic property inventories to retail marketing committees to the city’s investment in sidewalks and landscaping – and the need to focus them on a shared vision.

I think we all recognize the benefits of a thriving downtown. Utilizing and improving your downtown is fiscally efficient,” Sanders said. “You’re already using the infrastructure that’s in place, and it helps your economy to have a city center without slums and blight.”

More importantly, she said, revitalizing the downtown area cuts to the heart of the community’s identity.

“Downtown really is the heart of the community,” Sanders said. “And just like the body, if you don’t have a strong heart you don’t have a strong body.

“Downtown preserves our sense of place … it’s where you’re different from other cities and other places … it’s where you sense of history is.”