Loganville turns to residents for planning new downtown

Loganville, split between Gwinnett and Walton counties, wants to be the next metro Atlanta city to breathe new life into its downtown area. But first, officials are asking residents how it should be done.

Approximately 50 residents, city leaders and county officials showed up to a Thursday town hall held at the Historic Rock Gym. About 10 residents shared their vision of the future of downtown Loganville, while others listened to the conversation.

Residents overwhelmingly shot down new multifamily apartments in the area, which city officials initially proposed in an earlier plan that was scrapped. But most people in attendance Thursday agreed that Loganville needs a makeover with new shops, parks and aesthetic upgrades in a walkable city center.

“I am ashamed a lot of times of how poor Loganville looks when you drive down the highway,” said Linda Woods, a Loganville resident and real estate agent.

With the way Loganville looks now, Woods said she’s “embarrassed” to show her family where she lives. She called for the city to borrow ideas from the neighboring cities of Grayson and Monroe by installing new street lights and planting trees along highways while keeping up with grass overgrowth in the medians.

“With the amount of property the city owns along Main Street, there are many things that we could to do enhance our downtown ... without an exorbitant cost to the taxpayers,” said Melanie Long, who has owned a locksmith service business for the 30 years in the town.

Credit: Tyler Wilkins

Credit: Tyler Wilkins

The city should build a larger playground, walking trails, open spaces or a park for food trucks, Long said. Adding more community events could attract developers to open the downtown businesses residents crave, she said.

“I want to challenge our city officials to stop trying to build for those who don’t yet live in Loganville, but instead create for the faithful taxpayers that have lived here for decades and hope to continue living here for decades to come,” Long said. “Our citizens don’t want to see shiny, new, contrived and forced growth but rather organic growth that will embrace our town’s history while looking toward our future.”

Walter Leen, who moved to Loganville to retire in 2017, said Main Street is currently an “eyesore.” The downtown should include ideas from European nations, he said, such as cobblestone streets without cars driving through it.

Like most residents, Leen said he is opposed to multifamily apartments in town. But he’s in favor of owner-occupied condos, especially for older residents. “I’m 79. I don’t want to go up those stairs anymore (at home), yet I can’t find anywhere to downsize to,” he said.

Shane Short, executive director of the Development Authority of Walton County, presented the discussion under one condition: that no city officials be allowed to speak during the town hall. After the meeting, City Manager Danny Roberts said he learned residents want to keep the “small-town character” but have a walkable downtown.

The city has tried to revitalize its downtown area since 2015, Roberts said. City officials plan to meet at a retreat in July to hammer out what kind of development to attract and how to fund it, using feedback from the town hall and a survey, he said.