We have visited many OTP cities and love the blend of history, quaintness, and development. Many downtowns have strategically grown both their retail and restaurant development, making them unique OTP destinations.
Canton is our hometown city. Our children attend Woodstock High School based on boundaries, and therefore we find ourselves in downtown Woodstock more often than not, but also, because Woodstock is a hub of activity. So, imagine our excitement when we heard that Canton’s city government is behind a development proposal called #Canton Forward: Etowah to the Loop. We are realistic and understand a redesign of a historic downtown area is a long process that will take years — but at least the conversation has started and we got to be a part of it!
Woody Giles of AICP of TSW Planners and Cheri Morris of Morris and Fellows Inc have been integral in re-developing historic urban retail districts to create extraordinary, retail-based mixed use properties, cities such as Woodstock and Alpharetta. The new Alpharetta City Center area will take an already established downtown Main Street to the next level. Giles and Morris were the keynote speakers at the citizen open forum.
According to the website, #CantonForward: Etowah to the Loop is about creating a vision for the future of Downtown Canton (the Loop) and the area along the Etowah River. This vision will leverage the history, attract jobs, encourage appropriate development, make walking and biking easier, and revitalize the core of our city!
The presentation began with a recap of the planner’s extensive study of the city. They interviewed citizens and basically found out that the majority thinks our city has potential and could be vibrant. The open forum then shifted to an interactive session, where more than 75 people voiced their opinion on street connectivity, buildings, opportunities, and dreams for the city and the river district.
To bring people downtown to a city, it needs a balance of restaurants, retail, arts, and nature like bike trails or dog parks. The developers believe by capitalizing on the river and the history, Canton can be the most sought after OTP destination. Several established areas and current tenants will need to change for this vision to occur. This is not a quick fix and will take time, but it appears the city is behind this proposal, and so now we are off to the races!
A discussion period took place where citizens divided into groups at tables and talked about certain buildings and roads. Michelle and I went to the “Dream Board” and talked about outdoor eating and kayak rentals. We can’t wait for the draft plans, so we can see the outcome of this open forum.
Canton has also started some other development with the planned proposal of a mixed use area bringing in restaurants and retail to downtown. Stay tuned for those developments too, as we watch this city grow!