Representatives from the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government laid out a short-term vision plan to the Brunswick City Commission last week on how to transform core downtown areas into destinations.
Danny Bivins, senior public service associate, and Clark Stancil, with the Vinson Institute, shared short-term plans the city could put in place right away.
“People want to see more people living, working and playing downtown,” Bivins said. “We’ll focus on things that can be achieved without a lot of money.”
The Downtown Development Authority and the city of Brunswick partnered with the Vinson Institute to host the focus groups and town hall meetings as part of the Downtown Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning process.
Stancil and Bivins pulled the short-term ideas from the overall, long-term vision plan that is being done in correlation with the city’s master plan.
An $8,500 grant was part of a contract between the Georgia Municipal Association, Georgia Cities Foundation and the institute of government to help with the planning phase of the process.
City officials will have to come up with the funding to implement the vision plan.
During focus groups and town hall meetings that started last November, ideas were shared on how to increase the vitality and economic growth, especially on Gloucester, Norwich and Newcastle streets. Bay Street and the waterfront were also included in the planning process.
Rather than wait for the all the necessary components to align to implement a long-term plan, Bivens said the downtown area can be made more attractive in the short-term by utilizing a bit of artistic creativity, more greenery, better lighting and an increased police presence.
“Brunswick is an absolutely amazing place with a lot of potential,” Bivens told the commission. “We enjoyed our time here.”
One of the main concerns from residents was that this vision plan, like others, would end up on a shelf collecting dust.
Residents would like to build on the natural features and assets the city has.
Clark Stancil, landscape and urban designer with the Vinson Institute, said the city could take an artistic approach and use local artists for signs and to improve the look of things such as the big chain link fence around Howard Coffin Park at U.S. Highway 17 and Gloucester.
Stancil and Bivins suggested the city use trees and other greenery to improve right-of-ways at key intersections.
“You can create a destination with just trees,” Bivens said. “It’s amazing the impact trees can make.”
As for the waterfront, the Urban Redevelopment Agency has plans in the works to redevelop Mary Ross Park. Clark and Bivins said one of the most important things the city staff can do there is keep the bathrooms clean.
Additionally, Stancil and Bivins suggested adding large canopy trees in the park to provide shade, more lighting, keep the park building open in the evening hours, add a fishing infrastructure at some point along the pier and create a designated play area for children with inexpensive play features as a way to draw people to the park.
A steering committee chosen by Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey and the city commission, comprised of seven to nine members, will help guide the process and will use a list of action items as a road map to carry out the plan to create the vision.
“The steering committee will oversee the progress on the action items and as action items are completed, they will move items from long-term to short-term,” said Mathew Hill, executive director of the DDA.
Bivins and Stancil will present the vision plan during a public meeting that will take place 6 p.m. July 18 at the Ritz Theater in Brunswick. Another meeting will take place on St. Simon’s Island but the time and place is not yet determined.