Some residents have criticized the city’s redevelopment concept, concerned that it will cause traffic problems and safety risks for pedestrians along an extended King Street. Others have objected to a proposal to sell city-owned property to StillFire Brewing, allowing the Suwanee-based brewery to build a three-story location adjacent to the community center along Atlanta Road.
Among those opposed to the redevelopment is Smyrna’s former Mayor Max Bacon, who spent 34 years in office before stepping down in 2019. Bacon helped architect Smyrna’s current downtown, overseeing a major redevelopment to the then-declining town center in the 1990s. The design earned the city an Urban Land Institute award for excellence in 1997.
Bacon took a stance after viewing the city’s plans for himself Thursday. In a phone interview late Friday, the city’s longest-serving mayor told the AJC he sees no need for a downtown reboot.
“I just think there’s a better use for money than to spend it on something that’s working fine now,” Bacon said Friday. “We have a vibrant downtown. I was there today at lunch and couldn’t get a parking space. So the downtown’s doing very well.”
Bacon agreed that it’s time to refurbish two aging downtown fountains, but said he couldn’t find a reason for a full overhaul. Bacon wondered how much the makeover will cost and said he saw nothing in either option last week that changed his mind.
“I want to support the mayor and council and want them to be successful,” the former mayor said. “I just think they should focus on other things that really might be a little bit more important than trying to redo a very successful downtown.”
Mayor Derek Norton, Bacon’s successor, has spearheaded the push to revamp the downtown area. He’s also defended the effort, saying it was a campaign promise he made to voters.
“It’s overwhelmingly supported by the community,” he said Friday. “It’s something that I heard when I went to 3,000 doors campaigning, that they wanted this refresh. So we’re giving it to them.”