Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett, courtesy Hector Amador

Decatur mayor counters prevailing ‘myths’ during city address

During her half hour State of the City address Tuesday, Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett presented an intriguing set of numbers countering what she believes are “prevailing myths” about the city, particularly downtown.

“You hear over and again,” Garrett told an audience of staffers and Decatur Business Association members, “that businesses are closing and that the main reason is parking. We hate losing any business, and we have lost some good ones, but overall the numbers don’t bear this out.”

Garrett cited metrics from a city-produced data analysis and a parking update study.

These show that the city’s restaurant/retail vacancy rate is currently 3 percent compared to the national average of 10 percent. The office vacancy rate is 9 percent and meanwhile 70 percent of Decatur’s downtown businesses are independently owned.

Regarding parking, “the downtown area” has 17 parking decks, 131 surface lots, 679 marked street spaces and 10,532 total parking spaces.

Garrett also said that in 2019 the city anticipates more activity at Legacy Park, the former United Methodist Children’s Home, for which commissioners approved a master plan last year. Decatur Housing Authority tenants will rent eight duplexes and two single-family homes during rehabilitation of 98 units at Swanton Heights. Additionally the 19th annual Decatur BBQ Blues & Bluegrass festival, long held at the East Lake Drive/Oakview Road intersection, will move to Legacy Park in August.

Community input on the 2020 strategic plan, a successor to the 2000 and 2010 plans, begins this year. Garrett said that 93 percent of those tasks outlined in the 2010 plan were completed.

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