Hoping to follow the lead of Douglasville, Duluth and Suwanee in turning older downtowns into tourist destinations, Jonesboro leaders took the first step in revitalizing the heart of their community Tuesday by bulldozing a row of decrepit buildings on Broad Street.
Over the next several years, Jonesboro plans to remove several older vacant non-historic buildings around the main drag of the Clayton County community and replace them with parks, trails, restaurants and retail. It’s part of a long term growth strategy the city has developed dubbed Blueprint Jonesboro.
“It’s certainly going to beautify our downtown,” Jonesboro Mayor Joy Brantley Day said of the city’s plans as a bulldozer chomped into the facade of the Clayton House, a former Broad Street alcohol treatment center. “But more than that, it will be a linchpin for the further development of our downtown area.”
The move comes as south metro leaders are pursuing a variety of tactics to lure business owners and area residents tired of traffic congestion and high cost of living on Atlanta’s more prosperous north side to communities south of downtown. Those strategies have included bus tours for prospective new businesses, improvements in home building standards and beautifying interstate interchanges.
“What is happening today definitely signifies growth, definitely signifies commitment, and also spotlights a partnership between Jonesboro and the county to work together to make Jonesboro a better place, which in turns makes Clayton County a better place,” Clayton Commissioner Jeff Turner said during the bulldozing.
Once removed, the buildings — which include a former print shop and a behavioral health center — will be turned into greenspace, including gardens, walking paths, a pavilion and central grassy place similar to the one at Atlantic Station. It also will open up views of buildings along the city’s historic Main Street, which could be reconfigured to have second entrances on the back to accommodate greenspace visitors.
A fire museum already on the property could also be renovated to add a restaurant to lure visitors for longer stays.
“Any small town or city in the country wants to have an identity … something to put a tack on the map to say this is home,” Clayton Commissioner Michael Edmondson said. “This redevelopment of Broad Street is a giant step toward redeveloping that identity.”
Jonesboro City Manager Ricky Clark said the project, which should take a year to complete, said some of the ideas for the design were inspired by trips city leaders made to Douglasville, Lawrenceville and Duluth. Liking what they saw, the leaders decided to incorporate the results into their vision for Jonesboro.
“To coin a phrase from our Main Street community, ‘rip off and duplicate,’” Clark laughed.
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