Sunshine, optimism and ambition were rife among the minds of the more than 30 revitalization stakeholders who toured downtown Brunswick on Monday morning.
The Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation sponsored the three-hour walking tour which showcased several spots that have potential for spurring growth in the downtown area.
Beginning at the Mary Ross Waterfront Park, the only waterfront park connected to the downtown area, the group heard from lifelong Glynn County resident Ben Slade and Brunswick City Commissioner Julie Martin about prior revitalization attempts as well as the specific plans for the park in the future.
Martin said that the park’s renovation plans would transform it into a family venue including restaurants and gift kiosks. An added bonus, the iconic staged pavilion building could be slightly modified to optimize its use without altering its distinguishing spire. She also said the city has been working with the Georgia Department of Transportation on ways to make U.S. 341/Oglethorpe Street a better foot access point to the park from downtown.
Stephen Prince spoke of a vibrant downtown Brunswick which he remembered growing up in the 70s. He and his daughter Courtney invited stakeholders to see inside the formerly vacant Gould Ford building at 1608 Newcastle St., which they recently purchased. The two plan to make the first floor corridor of the building into a thoroughfare that leads to a restaurant.
The group only had to walk a few feet from the old Ford building to get a glimpse at The Wick, a private office venue owned by Michael Kaufman occupying the former home of the Royal Hotel built in 1908.
Kaufman bought the building in 2017 with a goal of “breathing life” into downtown Brunswick. Vacant since 2010, the 24,000 square foot property has been used by many businesses, but Kauffman’s mixed-use office space idea has proven to be immensely successful. The building was filled up within a few months of its opening, so a second location was opened near the waterfront and appropriately named the Wick 2.0. It too filled up in only a few months.
“It goes to show that a little TLC goes a long way with these buildings,” Kaufman said.
After a short bus ride courtesy of the Coastal College of Georgia, the group arrived at the Historic Risley Buildings. Tres Hamilton, CEO of the Coastal Georgia Community Action Authority explained plans to build a community resource center on the site, which is located in an area severely affected by poverty.
Hamilton said her organization’s goal is to bring low-income families to self-sufficiency and that the facility will provide child care as well as vegetable gardens to provide nutritious food in a “food desert” area — an urban area where it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.
Other stops on the tour included the Brunswick Landing Marina, a hub for downtown visitors and the largest marina in coastal Georgia, and Jekyll Square, which came to look as it does today through the efforts of Martin’s nonprofit Signature Squares.
The tour concluded with a speech by Chris Moline in front of the unfinished Silver Bluff Brewery property. Moline, a Silver Bluff partner, said downtown Brunswick’s potential was a big factor in choosing it as the location for the brewery. The completed property will include a tap room, beer garden and a brewhouse.
The Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation will further discuss downtown revitalization plans at 10 a.m. today at an invite- only meeting.