Clarkston taking first steps on a plan to revitalize downtown

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — Members of Clarkston’s Community Development and Civic Innovation committee and Business and Economic Development committee held a joint meeting on June 23 to discuss ideas for revitalizing Clarkston’s downtown.

The ideas discussed include improvements to the aesthetic look of the downtown area, business development through revolving loans, and a workforce development program.

Council member YT Bell described a proposal for a matching fund grant program for business facades to form a cohesive look. Bell stated that a unified aesthetic would help create a sense of place and would also improve potential for business development.

Not all members were immediately on board.

“Our budget is really very tight and I think it’s going to be difficult to add more programs,” said Vice Mayor Awet Eyasu. “Investment wise, we have really spent a ton of money on the streetscape.”

Resident Brian Medford urged the city to take the initiative. Medford said that he felt that the streetscape work was a good start, but that the city needs to complete the project of updating the look of the downtown area.

“It’s still a 1960s time warp there,” said Medford.

Another idea discussed is a revolving loan program for businesses throughout Clarkston.  Council member Debra Johnson said that the city could use American Rescue Plan Act funds for the initial grant, and Bell added that other sources of funding could be found.

Mayor Beverly Burks said that business development loans could be connected with other business programs that the city provides. Bell and others discussed other support that business owners could be offered, including marketing guidance.

“I think that anything we can do to invest in our local businesses is great,” said Amy Medford. She went on to say that because Clarkston has an unusually diverse business community, the city should take a flexible approach.

Burks proposed the idea of creating a trust for adult education. The city would partner with local organizations which provide training and certifications to help residents develop more marketable skills.

“That’s something that other cities have been doing with their ARPA funds in terms of providing those resources,” said Burks.

“I fully support this. I think we’ve been having this conversation for a little bit now,” said Eyasu. He added that he favors a robust program that partners with a number of different entities, rather than one or a few.

Council members plan to work out the details of all three ideas through further research, community feedback, and more discussion in committees before bringing each of them to a city council work session in the future.

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