Garner Revitalization Association leaders presented a work plan for 2017 to the town council on Tuesday, even though it’s now well into spring.
The presentation was actually a midway update on a two-year plan that helps the GRA earn its accreditation for the Main Street America program. Being a Main Street community makes Garner eligible for grant funding and gives it access to training and technical support for breathing new life into its downtown district.
“It’s a proven program that’s been around since the ’80s,” said Downtown Development Director Mari Howe, who joined GRA board members in giving details on the plan. “It basically gives us a framework to determine priorities for downtown revitalization.”
Much of the strategy is the product of the GRA’s November planning retreat, which was made open to community stakeholders, the town council, town staff members and anyone with an interest in the future of downtown Garner.
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The plan identifies goals in four target areas – community engagement, development, event planning and historic preservation – and timelines for teams to achieve those goals before the end of the year.
The overall goal is to make downtown a vibrant option for people looking to get out and do something in Garner.
“We took what our vision was and said what can we achieve in 2017, that we actually think we can get done,” Howe said. “We want downtown to be a place where people can eat, shop and play.”
The community engagement team, led by GRA chairman Jason Waters and board member Mary Elizabeth Twiddy, has a goal of connecting with a least 150 stakeholders to support downtown and the GRA. It also plans to create a marketing plan to drive traffic to downtown events and the downtowngarner.com website.
The objective of the downtown development team, made up of GRA board members and town staff, is to encourage private investment and infill development in downtown by leveraging town resources. One of its top priorities is looking into the best future for the commercial space the town currently owns next to the Garner Recreation Center.
Howe leads the event planning group. Its initiatives marketing, working to improve existing events and starting to track attendance at downtown events.
The design and historic preservation team is made up of town staff and community stakeholders, including historian Kaye Whaley and former town clerk Judy Bass. It plans to use 2016 state funding for streetscape improvements for Main Street at Rand Mill Road and to consider new locations and potentially new uses for the town’s historic train depot, which currently serves as a museum.
Howe said the GRA will begin preparing another work plan in the fall to maintain Main Street status for 2018-19.