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DDA forms alliance
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The city of Dawsonville has taken an enormous step toward revitalizing its downtown historic district, including the potential for a drive-in movie theatre to open as early as October.

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) last week voted unanimously to form a partnership with the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia (UGA) to develop and implement a new vision for the downtown area. After months of work, the DDA team of Nic Nicodemus, Sid Manning, Chris Gaines, Tommy McKee, Phil Goodson, and Keith Stone took the same steps neighboring Dahlonega did nearly ten years ago.

Our downtown has a rich history and is the heart and soul of our community, said Mayor James Grogan. Weve come a long way in the past decade and now were ready to take the next steps.

The next steps include spending $20,000 during the next year to develop a vision for downtown and a plan to implement that vision. The city approved $15,000 in its 2012-2013 budget to fund the project. An additional $5,000 will be set aside and paid during the following year provided the city council approves the expense. Other costs include $1,000 - $3,500 for an economic analysis conducted by the UGA Small Business Development Center.

We will kick off the process in October by creating a Visioning Steering Committee made of people in the community, said Danny Bivins, who will lead the Fanning Institute team. Both the visioning and planning process will be done by April. Plans call for including input from long-time business owners and residents, high school students, seniors, new residents, and tourists. There will also be town meetings.

DDA members also discussed surveying tourists who will be in town for the upcoming Mountain Moonshine Festival, Oct. 27-28.

As if to show its seriousness about the endeavor, DDA members announced a potential agreement with the county to create a drive-in movie theatre in the parking lot of the new county courthouse.

A letter outlining the project dated Sept. 24 was sent from the DDA to county manager, Kevin Tanner. The county Board of Commissioners needs to approve the plan. If the plan goes through, Northside Hospital has agreed to be a sponsor.

Discussions are also underway for local vendors to sell refreshments.

This is way to get people downtown in the evening, added Grogan. Were very excited, and this is just the beginning.

The scope of work between the DDA and Fanning includes:

(BULLET THESE FOUR)

Reviewing relevant plans developed in the past five years

Identifying the community assets that make Dawsonville unique

Establishing priorities to maximize opportunities

Developing goals and strategies that can be implemented in one to three years.

One of our goals is to get people to downtown Dawsonville and to give them a reason to stay and enjoy themselves once they get there, Gorgan said.

Members of the Visioning Steering Committee are Tommy McKee, chair, Christie Haynes, president Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, Roxanne Fausett, principal Robinson Elementary, Dr. Jute Wilson, principal Dawson County High School. Jeff Mohler, owner J. Brooke Salon, Gordon Pirkle, local racing historian, Bonnie Warne, Dawsonville city clear, Kimberly Boim, Dawson News & Advertiser, and a second local newspaper.

It is a big thing for Dawsonville. We have an opportunity to go forward or go backwards, said DDA Chairman, Nick Nicodemus. Some people think were sitting here doing nothing, and if you stand in the middle of the road doing nothing, youre going to get run over. Weve got the Chamber working with us, and its got the makings of being a community-wide event.

The first meeting will be held Oct. 22 in the Joe Lane Cox Conference Room at City Hall.

It is significant and fitting that it be held in the Joe Lane Cox Room. Joe Lane was all about moving the city forward. He was always progressive in his vision for the city, Nicodemus added.

DDA Board Member, Chris Gaines, said its all about laying a road map for the future.

We are at a critical stage, he said. Weve got positive momentum and a positive foundation on which to grow, and having this plan is an integral part of our future growth.

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