September 2, 2010 - DDA Board wraps up summer and heads into autumn
Many subjects were on the agenda at the recent Downtown Development Authority meeting. Saving the crepe myrtles on the square next to Blue Ridge Street, the success of the Green Bean Festival, the upcoming Bluegrass Festival, and Halloween on the Square were hot topics.
The DDA board also heard from Promotions Committee Chair Ray Graphman. He recapped the summer festivals and gave updates on the planning of fall events. Autumn and winter events that will take place downtown include decorating the square, the Blue Grass Festival, the Sorghum Festival Parade, a Food 4 Food drive, Hometown Halloween on the Square, Christmas on the Square, the Christmas Parade, and the Blairsville Blitz. There are other activities such as Blairsville Cruise-Ins and Friday Night Concert Series. All the downtown festivals and events are family orientated and help ensure that Blairsville a great destination for local people and tourists.
Professional storyboards with mock up photos of planned improvements are in the works. The storyboards will show detailed images of future changes such as a fountain, bricked crosswalks, and new places for tree plantings on the square. The storyboards will be placed around Union County for public viewing.
Program Manager Janet Hartman went over the streetscape storyboards, the TE Grant Application, and on-going maintenance for the DDA website located at www.downtownblairsville.com.
Cary Cox noted that the Appalachian Trail is a great resource. He suggested looking into new ways to utilize this famous Union County landmark.
During the meeting, everyone enjoyed birthday cake in honor of the Mayor’s birthday. Mayor Conley has been a part of the DDA since its beginning and currently chairs the Downtown Development Authority’s Organization Committee. Mayor Conley not only takes care of the business side of things, he also works during downtown events doing everything from public speaking to hauling off trash. Happy Birthday to Mayor Conley!
September 2010 - DDA Promotions Committee planning fall events in Blairsville, Georgia
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville Promotions Committee is busy planning several fall events. Hometown Halloween on the Square will be on Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Christmas Celebration and Parade will be on Saturday, December 4, 2010, and the Blairsville Blitz it tentatively scheduled for late November.
People will be asked to bring non perishable food items to Hometown Halloween on the Square. Feed the Union County Food Bank will give trick-or-treaters a chance to give back to the community as they collect their bags of candy!
Once again, the square will be closed to traffic during Hometown Halloween. Look for the food drive, pumpkin carving contests, shorter lines (candy stations will be placed in different areas this year), costume contests, kids games, live music, and a cupcake walk.
The Union County Historical Society is organizing the Christmas Parade again this year. Pictures with Santa, the lighting of the tree, a kid’s train, cookies, balloons, and other activities are in the planning stages.
The Blairsville Blitz will promote local shopping in Downtown Blairsville and promises great bargains and friendly faces. Look for upcoming announcements in the North Georgia News.
Everyone that would like to get involved in DDA activities is welcome to attend the next Promotions Committee meeting on October 5, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. at the DDA office on the square (between Village Square Mall and the Chevron Station). Committee Chairman Ray Graphman is always will to listen to ideas and suggestions. Mark you calendars and come on out to meet a great group of volunteers.
April 1, 2010 - DDA helping Blairsville, Georgia to fulfill potential
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville recently met to discuss recent activities and to hear reports from various committees. Mayor Jim Conley gave updates on the DDA Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. Everyone agreed that Popie's Barbecue did a great catering job. The food was delicious. Conley also mentioned activities for Georgia Cities ' Week.
Ray Graphman was next on the agenda with a report on the Promotions Committee. He said, "Plans are underway for several festivals. The Spring Arts and Crafts festival is coming up on May 22nd and over 60 top vendors have been chosen to participate."
Graphman gave updates on the Green Bean Festival which is scheduled for July 30th and 31st in Union County. The Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center is joining in the fun by offering green bean seminars and growing 14 green bean cultivars. The Mountain Life Museum and volunteers from the Union County Historical Society are also doing their part. They are planting a heritage garden (among other things). The Union County Farmer's market, the 4-H, Diamond Pageants, the Garden Club, Papa's Pizza to Go (with Green Bean Pizza), and other organizations and businesses are also participating. Ray said, "You don't want to miss the first Green Bean Festival - there's even going to be an old fashioned square dance - on the Blairsville square!"
Graphman also suggested purchasing a DDA tent to use at events. He commented on how businesses, organizations, and individuals are cooperating in their efforts to promote Blairsville as a great destination.
Robert Rogers reported on the Economic Restructuring Committee. He gave updates and cost estimates on possible improvements to downtown planters and landscaping. Special concerns were directed towards the large raised bed jutting out from the Hole in the Wall Restaurant corner of the square towards Blue Ridge Street . Everyone agreed it has become an eyesore.
Project Manager Janet Hartman reported on the Great American Clean-Up where volunteers plant flowers, pick up trash, and add new mulch to existing beds. This year, two master gardeners have created a landscape design plan. Hartman commented on how well the local government, businesses, and community members work together to help with various DDA projects.
Hartman also spoke about the Coffee Break Group's Downtown Yard Sale. The goal is to bring people downtown for shopping opportunities. She also passed around copies of the new Visitor's Guide which features Union County . The guide is available in visitor centers across Georgia .
During the meeting, funds were allocated for website search engine optimization. Hopefully statistics will show marked improvement after SEO measures are implemented.
The mission of the Better Hometown revitalization effort is to help the city of Blairsville fulfill its potential, by using combined talents and resources to create opportunity and prosperity fitting the special character, heritage, and historic preservation of the mountain community. Everyone is welcome to join - just pick a committee and get involved in your community!
March 5, 2010 - Final Concept Report Approved
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville recently received a letter from Bron Cleveland announcing that the Final Concept Report has been approved. This approval is the first step in getting a facelift for the Blairsville Square area. Many more steps are required before any construction work can actually begin.
Bron Cleveland Associates, Inc. is an Atlanta based consulting firm that provides services in five general areas including planning, engineering, environmental issues, financial resources, and program management. Bron Cleveland's team has been working closely with the DDA to find innovative ideas best suited to Blairsville's historical orientated downtown district.
During a recent meeting, it was announced that Janet Hartman will be on the City of Blairsville 's payroll. She will retain the job title of DDA Program Manager. Mayor Conley explained that Mrs. Hartman will be required to fill out a time sheet like all City of Blairsville employees but will continue in the same capacity as her previous duties.
It was noted that National Volunteer Week starts the week of April 18th . Plans for a DDA volunteer function is underway. It was noted that the DDA has a dedicated group of volunteers and they are greatly appreciated.
Janet Hartman reported that the Promotions Committee is working hard to prepare for the upcoming Arts & Crafts Festival and thirty artists and craftsmen have already submitted applications. Judges for the event will be Al Garnto, Carol Duckworth, and Gail Novak.
The Promotions Committee is also busy planning the first Green Bean Festival. Sponsors are already signing up and a professional logo has been designed by artist Chuck Rogers. Rogers has also designed a "green bean man" that will appear on festival t-shirts with the question, "Have you BEAN to Blairsville?" A festival website is also in the works.
Janet Hartman mentioned the possibility of holding a public meeting to show what the DDA is planning for the future of Downtown Blairsville. The board is also looking for ways to generate matching funds for the TE grant.
DDA board members include Chairman Cary Cox, Bob Head , W. C. Nelson, Rhonda Mahan, Mary Ruth Cook, Brenda Adams, and Robert Rogers. 2010 board meetings are scheduled for the 1st Thursday of each month. The scheduled meeting dates for 2010 are April 1, May 6, June 3, July 1, August 5, September 2, October 7, November 4, and December 2. All meetings will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Downtown Development Authority office.
Graphman to Chair DDA Promotions Committee
The Downtown Development Authority's Promotions Committee recently met to recap the October Hometown Halloween event. The annual Downtown Blairsville "treat" was fun and safe for the thousands that attended. Everyone agreed it was a huge success (even though it rained and children had to brave long lines to get their candy).
Moore announced that after serving as Committee Chairman for the past 5 years, he will be stepping down as Chairman of the Promotions Committee (which he Co-Chaired with wife Teresa Moore for most of that time). The Committee is proud to announce that Ray Graphman has agreed to fill the spot.
Ray Graphman is a good choice. He has been actively involved in the Promotions Committee for several years. Ray has worked hard to ensure that our downtown festivals run as smoothly as possible and his unfaltering dedication is evident in all that he does.
The DDA Promotion Committee volunteers have several things in the works for 2010. New this year is the Green Bean Festival. The mission statement reads, "The North Georgia Green Bean Festival celebrates the nutrient rich heritage between green beans and the people of North Georgia . The Green Bean Festival hopes to increase tourism in Downtown Blairsville and surrounding areas, to pass on the vast knowledge of our farmers to the next generation, to establish a larger market for locally grown varieties, to promote sustainable 'green' living, and to create a fun, family-orientated event." If you are interested in the Green Bean Festival, a meeting is scheduled for 12:00 noon on November 19 th at the DDA office located at 64 Town Square . Everyone is welcome!
August 11, 2009 - Blairsville Bluegrass Festival coming in September - vendors welcome
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville's Promotions Committee recently met to discuss several upcoming events scheduled for September 2009. Co-Chairperson Buddy Moore welcomed everyone to the meeting and called upon DDA Program Manager Janet Hartman to update everyone on various issues concerning the downtown district.
The annual Bluegrass Festival was the hot topic of the hour. The SEBA Bluegrass Festival will be held on September 25 th , 26 th , and 27 th with three stages of live music. Coordinating the Bluegrass Festival again this year is Music Man Sam Ensley, the Union County Historical Society, and the DDA. The event is showcased by the Southeast Bluegrass Association. The event also coincides with SEBA's 25 th Birthday Celebration so you don't want to miss it!
Arts and crafts venders are welcome to apply for a space around the square or on the Mountain Life Museum grounds during the three day event. Booth fees are really reasonable (approximately $35 for a 10x10 spot), hospitality is the best anywhere, and tourism is expected to be up with people attending events closer to home this year.
According to a report from Sharry Morrison, artists and craftspeople agree, "It's a good year for selling arts and crafts. Folks from Atlanta love coming to the North Georgia Mountains for a day of festivities. The music draws them, and then they shop and eat while they are here. A festival is good for all the businesses in town and the surrounding areas."
There will also be an informative and attractive Bluegrass Festival Program handed out during the event. Business (card size) ads are available for $25 and up. Don't be left out! Please contact Libby Stevens at the Historical Society for more information about purchasing an ad.
July 21, 2009 - DDA hosts volunteer appreciation dinner
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville recently hosted an appreciation dinner for the DDA volunteers. Board members greeted each volunteer with a smile and then proceeded to serve them dinner. Committee members enjoyed interesting conversation, good food, and an opportunity to see what friends and acquaintances have been up to during the summer months.
During the appreciation dinner, Cary Cox said a few words of welcome as a slide show of DDA related photographs played in the background. There were no awards or formal presentations - just heartfelt thanks from the board members and a relaxing evening for everyone that attended.
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville consists of a seven member Board of Directors appointed by the Blairsville City Council. These dedicated individuals meet monthly to discuss issues relating to the revitalization of Downtown Blairsville. The DDA Board works closely with Program Manager Janet Hartman, committee chairs, and volunteers.
June 4, 2009 - DDA looking forward to 2nd half of 2009
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville recently met to hear from Committee Chairs, discuss committee appointments, and look over the events of the past six months.
Cary Cox, DDA Chair had only good things to say about DDA volunteers, "The committee chairs are doing fabulous! They manage to get things done and keep everyone energized."
The first half of 2009 was very busy. The DDA participated in several events designed to promote the downtown district including the Great American Clean-Up, the Spring Arts & Crafts Festival, and Armed Forces Day Celebrations. They also moved the DDA offices from its former location on Hospital Street to 64 Town Square (where they share space with The Union County Development Authority).
Program Manager Janet Hartman reported on the Blairsville Sculpture Garden , the "Park Smart" Seminar, and gave updates on the TE Grant. She said, "Getting any kind of streetscape or road work is a very long, drawn out process that may take years." The DDA is working to improve safety and the overall look of downtown. One objective is to make downtown a pedestrian friendly and inviting area for visitors and business owners.
New on the agenda for 2009 are plans to start the application process for receiving 501 (c) (3) status. Other plans include sponsoring the Bluegrass Festival, fall decorating, Hometown Halloween on the Square, and Christmas activities including a float in the Christmas Parade.
DDA receives Transportation Enhancement Grant
Blairsville ornaments now on sale
The 2008 Blairsville Christmas ornaments are now on sale! Brought to you by the Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville, the recently designed Christmas ornaments are the first in a series of collectible ornaments. The 2008 ornament features an aerial view of the city nestled among surrounding mountains. Each ornament is dated and gift boxed. Optional acrylic display stands are also available. Each year a special part of our hometown will be portrayed on an ornament. What a wonderful way to remember a visit to Blairsville, to thank a special client, or to start a personal collection!
All proceeds from this fundraiser will go to the DDA for future projects. Blairsville Christmas ornaments may be purchased at The Book Nook (off the square on Cleveland St.), Earlybird Antiques Emporium (off the square on Wellborn St.), The Flower Garden (off the square on Blue Ridge St.), Seasons Inn Motel and Plaza (on the square), Tuckers Antiques and Gifts (located on 129 north), Pat's Hallmark (on Blue Ridge St.), the Union County Chamber of Commerce (385 Welcome Center Lane), Candles by Jean (on Murphy Hwy.), Blairsville Realty (next to McDonalds), and the Union County Historical Society gift store (located at the Butt-Mock House - one block south of the square
The cost of each ornament is $10.00 and stands are $4.00.
Back Row - Cary Cox, Robert Rogers, Caroline Ingersoll, Cindy Williams, and Janet Hartman.
November 6, 2008 - DDA Board meets with Mayor, Committee Chairs, and Chamber President
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville recently met with Mayor Jim Conley, Blairsville-Union Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Williams, Design Committee Chair Caroline Ingersoll, Promotions Committee Co-Chairs Buddy and Teresa Moore, and prospective Board Member Robert Rogers to discuss the upcoming Christmas on the Square, the recent Halloween event, DDA Board training, the Sustainable Arts Grant, the Facade Grant, and the Blairsville Historic Resource Assessment (coming up on November 19th ).
Everyone agreed that Hometown Halloween on the Square was extremely successful although lines were long and relatively slow. Various ideas to help speed things up in 2009 are under consideration.
Grant applications have been filed with the Sustainable Arts Program for the 2009 Spring Arts and Crafts Festival. The 2008 Arts Fest was a great success and everyone is looking forward to the next one.
Facade Grants are still available to downtown businesses. The purpose of the Facade Grant Program is to encourage redevelopment and revitalization of downtown businesses and properties. Specifically, the Downtown Development Authority would like to see business owners restore, beautify, refurbish and rehabilitate existing properties in the target area.
The next DDA project will be the creation of a float for the Christmas Parade. Other things in the works include downtown Christmas decorations and continued sales of the new Blairsville Christmas Ornament.
Blairsville Christmas ornaments may be purchased at The Book Nook (off the square on Cleveland St.), Earlybird Antiques Emporium (off the square on Wellborn St.), The Flower Garden (off the square on Blue Ridge St.), Seasons Inn Motel and Plaza (on the square), Tuckers Antiques and Gifts (located on 129 north), Pat's Hallmark (on Blue Ridge St.), the Union County Chamber of Commerce (385 Welcome Center Lane), Candles by Jean (on Murphy Hwy.), Blairsville Realty (next to McDonalds), and the Union County Historical Society gift store (located at the Butt-Mock House - one block south of the square). The cost of each ornament is $10.00 and stands are $4.00.
DDA to host Blairsville Town Meeting on June 17th
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville recently met to discuss future plans for the revitalization of downtown Blairsville, changes in by-laws, the upcoming town meeting scheduled for June 17, 2008, board member term lengths, and the possibility of having a DDA float in the Christmas Parade. They also heard from Promotions Committee Co-Chairs Teresa and Buddy Moore.
Teresa and Buddy gave an overview of the recent Downtown Spring Arts and Crafts Festival. They gave credit to Promotions Committee volunteers and Blairsville Mayor Conley for their dedication and hard work during the event. Teresa said, "The volunteers make everything possible and Mayor Conley is more than a figurehead. He gets out there and really works." She went on to recap the event. "Venders felt welcomed and many expressed their gratitude for such amenities as the hospitality tent and availability of booth sitters. Our committee really comes together and gets things done."
Project Manager Janet Hartman reported on several things. She talked about the success of the Design Committees clean-up and planting day. Over 500 plants went into the ground and benches were stained and sealed. Design Committee Chairperson Carolyn Glenn is looking into watering issues and proposes the purchase of a rain barrel for use at the J. Lance planter. Upcoming Design Committee projects include Fall and Christmas decorating.
Organization Committee Chairman Mayor Conley reported on plans to attend the Georgia Municipal Association Convention during the third week in June. The convention will offer various training courses including Economic Development, Human Resource Management, Municipal Financing, Municipal Law, Ethics, Planning, and Zoning. Conley is also considering a collaborative meeting with the DDA, the Blairsville-Union Chamber of Commerce, and the Union County Historical Society to discuss various issues including the Hotel/Motel tax base. Hartman also went over Blairsville's Entrepreneur Friendly designation, the DCA Hotel/Motel Tax seminar, and the National Main Street Accreditation Breakfast.
Captions: Sub-committee meets to plan special event (left to right - Urbaniuk Jr, Colleen Urbaniuk, Dana Ensley,
March 24, 2008 - DDA is all about Blairsville, Georgia
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville is getting lots of things done in a relatively short period of time. Much of their continued success is due to the intelligent, progressive, seven-member board of directors. Of course, as all seven leaders will admit, the real legwork is done by Project Manager Janet Hartman and the volunteers.
It's no secret that the DDA has an exceptional manager and an active group of volunteers. The volunteer committees (and sub committees) work tirelessly to promote Downtown Blairsville as a great destination, to plan attractive streetscapes and green space, to keep the DDA website fresh and up-to-date, to support existing businesses, to seek out new businesses for the downtown area, to provide opportunities for local citizens to have fun in downtown, and to reconstruct the economic basis of the historic downtown business district.
People from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, folks from the Better Hometown Program, state officials, and dignitaries from surrounding counties are amazed at the progress being made in the Blairsville Downtown area. They ask, "How has the Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville been able to progress at such an outstanding rate?"
Blairsville is a special place with some pretty amazing people. The DDA Board of Directors, Janet Hartman, the Blairsville City Council, the Mayor's office, the Union County Historical Society, the Blairsville-Union Chamber of Commerce, the Blairsville Police department, the Union County Sheriff's Department, local medical emergency personnel, the North Georgia News, local clubs, and the DDA volunteers have one thing in common. They all love Blairsville and want it to be the best hometown possible. From planning a special event to deciding on traffic control, the various groups pitch in on every occasion to lend their expertise.
All DDA activities depend on cooperation and community involvement. DDA volunteers are quick to take on responsibilities. Committee chairs can delegate tasks and have confidence that the job will get done. The talented volunteers work well together - one person may be a marketing expert and another may be good at selling tickets. Together they can make things happen. When someone new attends a committee meeting, their talent is quickly spotted and put to work. DDA volunteers do not like to waste time.
There are many fun projects underway for 2008. Special events include the Night before the Climb (a party to welcome Tour de Georgia race teams), the Great American Clean-Up, the Mountain Gospel Convention and Downtown Spring Arts and Crafts Festival, the Bluegrass Festival, Hometown Halloween on the Square, and Hometown Holiday on the Square (at Christmas).
Janet Hartman says, "I am continually impressed with the level of commitment and dedication each DDA volunteer brings to the group. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work them and learn from them. We are always looking for new people and new ideas to add to our great group. If you have an interest in what is happening downtown, please join us! You can visit a committee meeting or volunteer for a specific project or event."
Other exciting programs and developments include the Facade Grant Program available to business owners in the designated downtown area and the Transportation Enhancement Grant.
The Blairsville City Council established the DDA and ultimately has final say over its activities. DDA Board members include Chairperson Kay Jones, Mary Ruth Cook, Rhonda Mahan, Jim Williams, Robert Head, W.C. Nelson, and Cary Cox. For more information about the DDA call Janet Hartman at (706) 994-4837 or visit www.downtownblairsville.com.
Blairsville is a Better Hometown
Downtown Blairsville Business Meeting offers chance for input and discussion
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville hosted a Downtown Business Meeting on August 16, 2007 at the Historic Courthouse on the Square. Over 35 people attended the meeting including Blairsville Mayor Jim Conley, Union County Historical Society President Sam Ensley, and DDA board members.
Promotions Committee member Colleen Urbaniuk, DDA Project Manager Janet Hartman, Design Committee Chair Caroline Glenn, and Promotions Committee member Laura Ward headed up the meeting. Packets were given to each person in attendance and marketing opportunities were discussed in detail.
Each business owner was asked to fill out a form. Resulting data will be utilized during upcoming marketing and planning sessions. Examples of questions included, "Would you like to have a band at your business location during the SEBA Bluegrass Festival?" and "Can we publish your contact information in a directory?"
Many concerns were brought up at the meeting including traffic control and parking. These two topics are often at the top of the list whenever downtown improvements are discussed. As Mayor Conley pointed out, paving is underway and other traffic issues are currently being addressed.
Without promotion, design, and careful planning, small town charm can disappear. Businesses begin to look elsewhere to set up shop and everyone suffers in the long run. There are many people working on a daily basis to ensure that this never happens in Blairsville.
The ever popular Friday Evening Concert Series, the annual Mountain Marketplace Festival, the SEBA Bluegrass Festival, the world famous Sorghum Festival, the continuing tradition of Hometown Halloween, the new Farmer's Market, and the monthly Cruise-In help keep our hometown prosperous and thriving. Public events like these help attract tourists and local folks to the downtown business area.
The DDA of Blairsville has a vision statement that reads as follows, "Our vision for the revitalization of Blairsville is an inviting and thriving downtown full of enthusiastic people in an appealing landscape of well-kept buildings, green space, sidewalks, and streets. We envision that the revitalized downtown will draw residents and visitors alike to the shops, restaurants, businesses, attractions, and special events at the heart of our mountain community."
Local businesses and the DDA are working together to make the vision into a reality. Visit the DDA website at www.downtownblairsville.com for more information or to sign up for the newsletter.
DDA Promotions Committee recruiting new members
Are you interested in the revitalization of downtown Blairsville? Then get involved! The Downtown Development Authority Promotions Committee welcomes everyone to their informal meetings.
Things are gearing up for an exciting season. The 2nd annual SEBA bluegrass festival is coming to downtown Blairsville in September and volunteers are needed to assist the Union County Historical Society and SEBA members with various duties. Hometown Halloween on the Square is also coming up in October and requires lots of pre-event footwork.
The Promotion Committee is currently in the process of filing the necessary paperwork with the GA Department of Transportation to close traffic to the square for the Halloween event. Closing traffic to the square ensures a fun and safe environment for trick-or-treaters. The Promotion committee is also in the process of researching and pricing banners for display in the downtown area. Fall banners are expected to be the first installed.
The Promotions Committee meetings are fun and give participants a chance to express opinions, promote ideas, and keep informed. Committee Co-Chairs Teresa Dorton and Buddy Moore do a great job keeping things moving along.
The Promotion Committee meets at 2:00 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month (and weekly if needed) at Papa's Pizza to Go on the square. Many thanks go to John Calverley, owner of Papa's Pizza, for hosting the Promotion Committee meetings.
September 13, 2007 - DDA Board Meeting
The September DDA Board meeting was upbeat and positive with high expectations for Blairsville's downtown district. Economic Restructuring Committee Co-Chair Beverly Jackson and Project Manager Janet Hartman gave reports to the seven member board.
Recruiting new business to the downtown area is one of the main goals of the DDA. Beverly and Bobby Jackson are continuing their search for out-of-town businesses that might be appropriate for our area. The Jackson 's recently visited Murphy, North Carolina , where they canvassed retail establishments on Main Street and other busy side streets. "We decided to look closer to home after our trip to Watkinsville. We're gathering information, getting ideas, and trying to find the perfect businesses that would compliment our town." Beverly did add, as everyone knows, parking is an "issue" for all downtown businesses and will have to be dealt with at some point in the future.
Janet Hartman was next with reports on the recent choice of sourwood trees for Earnest Street , the downtown merchant's meetings, the upcoming newsletter, the website's new features, and the upcoming SEBA Bluegrass Festival. She unveiled the Promotions Committee t-shirt that will be sold at the festival and board member Mary Ruth Cook held it up for the camera. Short sleeve shirts will cost $10 and long sleeve shirts will be $15.
Hartman also told about a recent Department of Community Affairs visit. These officials were very impressed with the many accomplishments of the DDA volunteers. "Our talented volunteers and board members work hard," says Hartman. "We get credit for the time they contribute and are keeping track of hours." She went on to explain that the DDA gets points for design projects, too. An example is Jeanette's Flowers. All of the downtown renovation is accounted for and reports are made monthly.
During the meeting, the board discussed proposed sign guidelines for new businesses. W.C. Nelson voiced concerns, "These guidelines, if they became an actual ordinance, are restrictive in regards to size and height. This could deter new corporate business." The board agreed to use the guidelines as a tool for gaining experience and postponed asking the City Council for an enforceable ordinance. Jim Williams added, "This is a starting point. What we're looking for with these guidelines is feedback."
The DDA Board also approved a recommendation to participate in the Blairsville Home Depot's Hands-on-Georgia project that is scheduled for October 2, 2007 . Anyone interested in helping to improve the looks of Blairsville's Civic Center is welcome to lend a hand.
DDA meeting short and sweet
Things moved right along at the recent Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville Board meeting. DDA Chairperson Kay Jones quickly dispensed with business and asked Economic Restructuring Committee Co-Chair Beverly Jackson to give a report on her recent trip to downtown Watkinsville.
Beverly is gathering information and ideas to use in the revitalization of Downtown Blairsville. While in Watkinsville the Jackson 's visited the Georgia Originals Store and Chappelle's Gallery. Both of these retail stores would be welcomed additions to Blairsville's downtown area.
Upcoming events were noted such as the SEBA Bluegrass Festival hosted by the Historical Society and the Hometown Halloween on the square celebration. Liability issues are being studied. Mayor Conley reminded everyone that permits are now required for public events in the city limits.
Project manager Janet Hartman gave updates on the much anticipated TE grant. The application has been completed and submitted. Approval of the TE Grant would mean significant improvements are within reach. A drawing of Blairsville's conceptual streetscape shows the town square with sidewalks, attractive green islands, and marked parking spaces.
Hartman also touched on Promotion Committee activities. Promotions Committee members are preparing for the Bluegrass Festival and gearing up for Halloween.
Caroline Glenn reported on the activities of the Design Committee. They have many projects in the planning stages and include selling memorial bricks or trees as a fundraiser, developing an information package for property and business owners, and ideas for additions to the conceptual streetscape.
DDA pleased with Hartman's performance and excited about Blairsville's future
The Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville recently held a monthly Board meeting. The highlight of the evening was a recommendation to give Project Manager Janet Hartman a raise in pay. DDA Board Chairperson, Kay Jones said, "The Board is very pleased with Janet's performance and dedication. She works a lot of overtime and deserves a raise." A motion was made, seconded, and officially passed. Congratulations were extended by all present to Mrs. Hartman for a job well done.
Under the leadership of a determined Board of Directors and energetic Project Manager, the Downtown Development Authority is experiencing progress behind the scenes as well as in plain sight. Training sessions, advisory meetings, tons of paperwork, and other official requirements are on schedule. The steps for receiving a "Better Hometown" designation are nearing the final stage.
Plans are underway for making the square a more inviting place. New benches, flowers, lampposts, and banners are just the beginning. Working closely with Blairsville Mayor Jim Conley and the Blairsville City Council, designs for green space, more parking, new facades for existing buildings, historical color palettes, more retail shops, and an inviting atmosphere are in the works for Blairsville.
Committee reports were given by four board members. Bob Head complimented everyone on the success of the Great American Clean-Up and asked Design Committee Chairperson Caroline Glenn for her update on Design Committee activities. Glenn stated that the event ran smoothly but that name tags were needed in the future. Caroline expressed hopes for the Clean-Up to become a semi-annual event. Everyone nodded in agreement although no formal vote was taken by the Board.
Board member Mary Ruth Cook was next on the agenda. She reported on the Promotions Committee activities, "Right now the main concern is to ensure that traffic is diverted during Hometown Halloween on the Square. Another goal is to increase participation by recruiting new committee members." Cook also reported that the Promotions Committee is working with the Union County Historical Society on the upcoming 2 nd Annual Blairsville SEBA Bluegrass Festival.
Promotions Committee Co-Chairs Teresa Dorton and Buddy Moore added that their committee is working with the Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce to produce new welcome banners and signs. Inventories are completed and committee members are currently presenting ideas for future projects. What is Blairsville known for? What attracts visitors to the area? Why pick downtown Blairsville as a destination? What is our hometown "identity"? The answers to these questions will shape the face of Blairsville for years to come.
Board member Rhonda Mahan was next with a report on the new light poles for the downtown area and explained about beginning installation when downtown water rehab is completed. The Organization Committee also acknowledged receipt of new Christmas decorations for the light poles.
Board Member Jim Williams reported on the Economic Restructuring Committee. "We have been meeting with individual business owners and are looking into offering incentives such as low cost loans for improvements. It all goes back to economics. Once we do it, how will we support it?"
The process of developing a town requires lots of networking, time, and legwork. Multiple visits to other existing "Better Hometowns" have given insight into successful planning here in Union County . Beverly and Bobby Jackson, Economic Restructuring Committee Co- Chairs, have conducted research into what kinds of programs and opportunities are available. They are scheduled to visit Watkinsville , Georgia for a look at the popular "Georgia Originals" arts and crafts store. Beverly said, "We are looking at new businesses that might be appropriate for our area and beneficial to the town." Hartman, along with Paul Kreager from University of Georgia , has been visiting local banks and businesses. She reported on the progress of a T-grant application and expressed expectations of possible financial assistance in the future.
Board member Cary Cox added to the air of excitement that penetrated the May DDA Board meeting. He said, "We've made great strides in placing benches and plants. Now we've got to work with DOT and get some streetscapes in the works. If the awnings and buildings look inviting, then people will come. The buildings are our presentation, our first impression, and when we establish some streetscapes it's going to be huge."
Board member W.C. Nelson stressed that the Blairsville DDA is not looking for a "theme" but plans on working with the best of what we already have. He said, "In time as Blairsville grows, our identity will evolve along with the town."
Work in the downtown area is progressing nicely. Jeanette's Flowers and Gifts is one of the first buildings to benefit from the professional consultations and design options. The DDA does not pay for renovations, but does help find cost effective solutions and provide recommendations.
It's an exciting time at the Downtown Development Authority of Blairsville and new members are always welcome. If you are interested in joining one of the four DDA committees, mark your calendar for Tuesday, June 12th (Promotion Committee meetings are held on the 2 nd Tuesday of each month at Papa's Pizza on the Square. Someone there will be glad to direct you to the appropriate committee).