Brunswick is among five Georgia cities recognized with the Sustainable Futures Award for the way the city is approaching housing issues.
Katherine Moore, president of the Georgia Conservancy, said if the state’s population is going to continue to grow, there has to be a plan for the impacts. Her organization supports the reuse of buildings and unoccupied sites to take advantage of the infrastructure already in place.
Business leaders and city officials in Brunswick have been working the past several years to repurpose the upper floors of commercial buildings downtown and convert them into lofts, apartments and condominiums. That work continued, despite the pandemic.
The city was described as a “model” for reusing existing spaces to create diverse housing options.
The city is using Macon as a template for its plans to revitalize the downtown district. Macon’s downtown district, a ghost town a decade ago, now thrives with dozens of new businesses and hundreds of new residents.
John Hunter, the city’s planning director, said there has been a slight slowdown in building permit requests that he attributes to contractors having difficulty getting some building materials, as well as timing issues.
The award mentioned the ongoing efforts to improve the Norwich Street corridor, two tiny home villages under construction, the conversion of the old Brunswick hospital into an apartment complex and the planned construction of hundreds of affordable apartments.
“On Norwich, it makes sense to turn existing vacant buildings into residential,” he said.
He predicted there will be even more housing redevelopment downtown in coming years.
“People have started looking at the potential for downtown Brunswick,” he said. “It was a lot of people working hard for a long time.”
Developers believe it’s a low-risk proposition to invest in downtown Brunswick, Hunter said. State and federal incentives are also helping to spur development in the city.
Hunter said he believes the growth downtown will spread into surrounding areas.
“There’s a lot of rehabbing going on all around the city,” Hunter said. “The focus will be in areas surrounding the downtown district.”