Food Lion, the newest addition to Dawsonville, brought much excitement to the community with its grand opening Dec. 17.
A grocery store within the city limits is something that residents and city officials alike have been anxiously awaiting for several years.
“People are looking forward to having a nice place to shop that will have good deals without having to travel to 400,” said Dawson County School Superintendent Nicky Gilleland.
Food Lion is not the only addition Dawsonville has seen in the past couple of years, and will not be the last.
The addition of Food Lion to the community is just a part of the Downtown Dawsonville Urban Redevelopment Plan.
The main goal of the city’s current plan for development is to make Dawsonville a more economically successful location that allows for people to not only live in the city, but to work there as well.
Dawsonville Planning Director Steve Holder said that for the city of Dawsonville to survive, “it needs to grow” with local conveniences, like those along Ga. 400 in the county.
This plan, outlined in September of 2005, aims to create a “city within a city” atmosphere and attract quality development with the Dawsonville Municipal Complex as the centerpiece.
The plan is designed to take place in three phases. Phase one includes the creation of a mixed-use urban center.
Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox has a vision to create a central location in the city limits that everyone can enjoy. The central location will include parks, retail establishments, a grocery store, restaurants and businesses. Retail is planned for the ground floor, offices on the second and private residences on the top floor.
Appalachian Community Bank was the first business to join the downtown redevelopment project when the bank agreed to purchase property adjacent to the Dawsonville Municipal Complex with plans to open the county’s first permanent branch of the bank.
Sidewalks throughout the city of Dawsonville have also been an addition to the community that is part of the redevelopment plan.
About 10,000 linear feet of sidewalks have been constructed in Dawsonville over the past two years.
“The downtown area of a city is typically pedestrian-friendly, and ours is not,” said City Administrator and Clerk Kim Cornelison. “It has been pretty dangerous for people to walk around, so the goal is to get people out so they can walk and walk safely, especially the students walking back and forth to school.”
Currently, the grocery store and some retail and business vacancies of Mayor Cox’s vision have been filled by Food Lion, soon-to-be Family Dollar, and soon-to-be Allstate Insurance.
Not only are new additions part of the revitalizing plan, but restoring historic buildings to what they once were is included as well.
The second phase of the urban redevelopment plan focuses on the restoration of the historic downtown Dawsonville.
True Value Hardware, a building in the historic district of Dawsonville, was restored in 2006 to create an atmosphere of preservation and heritage to reflect simpler times within the community.
The descendents of Taft Fouts, who owned and operated Harben Bros. Station on the main square for many years, decades ago, wanted to be a part of preserving Dawsonville’s history by restoring the building where Fouts’ station once provided gasoline, a telephone and other necessities to Dawsonville residents.
Surviving family members decided to restore the service station, located on Hwy. 9 on the square, to its original 1930s splendor, complete with canopy over antique gas pumps sitting just feet off the street.
The sidewalk project coincides in the urban redevelopment plan as the third phase to make the city of Dawsonville accessible on foot by tying together the mix-use urban center area with the historic downtown section via sidewalks and roads that will eventually cut in together to join the property.
“The city is going to continue to be a place that’s going to attract more people who enjoy convenience, as well as the traditional small-town community and look of our city,” said Holder, who is taking great pains to preserve the traditional look of Dawsonville.
“We don’t want Dawsonville to look drastically different five years from now. We want to save what’s here. The goal is to make the city as great as we know that it can be,” he added.
“The economy is probably going to dictate what developers or builders want to do concerning the future of the urban redevelopment plan,” commented Cornelison.
“I feel like we did a great job during 2008,” said Mayor Pro Tem Linda Grant. “We got so much done, I am so proud of the city.”
The anchoring and establishment of Food Lion in downtown is not only a shopping advantage to Dawsonville residents, but it will spark the interest of other businesses to look at joining the new shopping center which will keep this community on its track for growing and expanding.