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Students present vision for downtown

COVINGTON - A three-day charrette to update the Downtown Covington Master Plan drew to a close Wednesday afternoon at a public meeting held at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning.

Students studying at the UGA Metropolitan Design Studio in Clark's Grove presented their vision for the future of the downtown, which included lots of greenspace, mixed-use developments and connectivity.

The students studied five main focus areas: the Harristown neighborhood, the proposed Dried Indian Creek Greenway, Emory Street, the government district between Usher and Stallings streets, and the old Wal-Mart site along Pace Street.

Harristown

Students Travis Barròn and Sam Valentine presented a plan for a proposed park and mixed-use development in Harristown.

The park would be bordered by Reynolds, Conyers, Emory and Lee streets on property owned by Lee Durden.

The park would be a gateway into the historic community, they said.

Modeled after parks found in Savannah, the site would include a water feature.

Additionally, because stormwater already flows onto the property, the two want to incorporate another water feature to allow the water to drain "in an aesthetically pleasing way," Valentine said.

Because of safety concerns, the park would be well-lit and a clear view through the park would be visible from all angles. The key to safety is a sense of community ownership, they said.

It's unknown if the park would be privately or publicly owned.

The two also proposed a two-story mix-used development running from the park to the Highrise in downtown Covington, with residential units on the top floor and commercial on the ground floor.

City Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams, a Harristown resident, said she was pleased with the plan.

"The community is really excited about the opportunity to come together and have different activities," she said.

Dried Indian Creek Greenway

A greenway stretching from Ivy Street to Stone Mountain Street has been proposed in numerous studies during the past 10 years, but students Scotty Hall and Lance Cheely are the first to turn the theory into a concrete plan.

The two modeled the proposed greenway after Boston's Emerald Necklace, characterized by large parcels of greenspace linked by smaller chains of greenways and trail systems.

The two proposed a 10-foot concrete walking trail alongside the vegetative buffer of the creek. The trail could accommodate strollers and golf carts.

They recommended raised crosswalks where the greenway would cross Washington Street and banners or signs marking the greenway entrance. The trail would also link up with the proposed Harristown park.

A trail loop would allow pedestrians to choose one of two directions: south toward a proposed pedestrian bridge that would link up with Ivy Street or north across Washington Street, on to Clark Street and Stone Mountain Street.

Most of the property affected has already been acquired, they said.

Emory Street

A mixed-use development was proposed for the property along Emory Street between the railroad and Dried Indian Creek, once occupied by a carwash, by students Sam Wirth and Derrick Lepard.

The two proposed a two-story building with a penthouse suite with retail on the first floor and office space or apartments on the second floor.

To slow traffic on Emory Street, they recommended using street trees in the center lanes and putting in pedestrian crosswalks.

Government District

The district, occupied by the Newton County Judicial Center, the historic jail, the Newton County Administrative Building and City Hall, suffers from a lack of connectivity, according to students Alison Peckett and Elizabeth Pope.

Most streets do not have sidewalks and many that do are only on one side.

The two proposed extending sidewalks for better access between buildings.

They also proposed a two-story parking deck for the property behind the Judicial Center once occupied by Meadors Laundry. The deck would serve the Judicial Center and a planned expansion.

The expansion should mirror the current building, they said.

Old Wal-Mart

The old Wal-Mart site along Pace and Elm streets is ready now for redevelopment, according to Jacob Lindsey, director of design with Keane and Co. out of Charleston, S.C.

Lindsey assisted students Kenny Thompson and Andy Graycheck with determining the best use for the property.

The three recommended a high-density mixed-use development similar to Glenwood Park in Atlanta, which would include flats, townhomes, and some commercial along Pace and Elm streets.

Because the property sits in the 100-year flood plain, buildings would need to be elevated.

The buildings could include rooftop patios, a popular feature on many new developments that would also help reduce water runoff, Lindsey said.

He said the development would be an extension of the downtown "working its way toward (U.S.) 278."

The students will continue their work on the plan for the next two weeks.

For more information, or to view their work so far, call 770-784-0484 or stop by The Center at 2104 Washington St.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.