A study commissioned by the Coastal Georgia Foundation has determined downtown Brunswick could absorb more than 60 rental and for-sale housing units per year over the next five years.
The results of the study, unveiled Wednesday at the College of Coastal Georgia’s Southeastern Conference Center, confirm what many business leaders in Brunswick have believed for months.
Laurie Volk, a researcher for Zimmerman/Volk Associates, explained the methodology used to conduct the study. She concluded the city’s downtown has a very positive outlook.
“There’s a real opportunity for success downtown,” she said. “You have so many assets. It’s really amazing.”
Another 41 to 64 new housing units could also be absorbed each year in an area just outside the city’s downtown district described as “In-Town Brunswick.”
Justin Callaway, president of NewCity Brunswick, said the study’s results validate his organization’s job of supporting the initiative to add more residents downtown with creative private-sector funding.
“We believe the key to revitalizing Brunswick is attracting new residents, so these findings couldn’t be much better news,” he said.
A group of business leaders traveled from Brunswick to Macon last spring to see first hand how the city’s downtown has been transformed into a vibrant district with more than 700 residents and dozens of new businesses.
“With all that Brunswick and the Golden Isles had to offer, we believed that Brunswick held rich potential for attracting new residents,” he said. “If people come, then businesses will follow.”
The research firm defined downtown as generally encompassing the blocks between I Street to the north, George Street to the south and between Albany Street to the east and Bay Street to the west. In-Town Brunswick is bounded by L Street to the north, Glynn Avenue to the east, 1st Avenue to the south and Bay Street to the west.
Bert Roughton, who is leading the formation of Forward Brunswick, said it was encouraging to learn the study also determined the potential beyond the boundaries of the downtown district.
“For Brunswick to live up to its full potential, it must be about more than downtown,” Roughton said. “While a lively regional downtown is the lynchpin, this study provides a solid foundation to extend our vision beyond the central city.”
The study also concluded multi-family developments are the recommended form of housing downtown. Nearly half the potential residents live outside city limits with the other half living in the city. And most of the new households would be comprised of younger singles, childless couples, empty nesters and retirees.
Volk also discussed the Oglethorpe block during a question/answer session at the end of the presentation.
“I do hope, and believe it should, have housing as part of the development,” she said.
She said housing on the block will help connect people to the waterfront.
“You need to bring the downtown to the water,” she said.
Albany Street is also a part of the city that could become part of the city’s business district, she said.
“It’s well worth recommending,” she said.
Crime in downtown Brunswick is more of a mistaken perception instead of reality, Volk said.
“Typically, there is more crime at the local mall than downtown,” she said. “The downtowns that do the best have local businesses and local entrepreneurs. You get shops you cannot get at a mall.”