The committee was formed this past spring after the city received a $10,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Fort Oglethorpe matched the grant with another $10,000. The total $20,000 amount will fund the creation of a master plan to revitalize the roughly one-mile stretch of LaFayette Road between the entrance to Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park and Battlefield Parkway.
Northwest Georgia Regional Commission community and economic development associates Carolyn Coburn and Julie Meadow facilitated the visioning session. Coburn, who serves on the Refresh Committee, informed those gathered the committee’s goal is to submit a completed master plan to the state by Aug. 31. Committee members also can help drum up community support for the project, she said.
“This is your project in your area,” Coburn said.
The committee will likely send out an RFP (Request For Proposal) to qualified area design and engineering firms in January 2012, Coburn said. The chosen firm will be hired to draw up a master plan based on the committee’s concepts, she said. Committee members tasked with reviewing the bids should have a company selected by early March 2012. The hired firm should then have a draft master plan completed by July 2012, according to Coburn.
In addition, once Fort Oglethorpe completes an urban redevelopment plan the LaFayette Road corridor would be eligible for an Opportunity Zone designation, she explained. New and existing businesses located in designated Opportunity Zones can receive up to $3,500 a year per job in state tax credits for creating two or more full-time jobs, according to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs website.
The LaFayette Road project master plan should incorporate elements of Fort Oglethorpe’s downtown, including its rich and varied history, and emphasize what makes the town unique, Coburn said. Long-term improvements, such as planting trees along the street or in medians, was discussed.
Gerry Depken, who chairs the Fort Oglethorpe Historic Preservation Committee but did not attend the meeting in an official capacity, suggested traffic flow and access to parking be addressed in the LaFayette Road project. Depken added there could be signage to alert visitors to Fort Oglethorpe’s diverse heritage, formally announcing the entrance to the city to and from the park. Coburn agreed, and said the city could pursue grants for gateway signage.
The group also discussed relatively inexpensive ways local businesses could highlight the city’s uniqueness, such as with murals on LaFayette Road buildings or banners that depict the city’s unifying character or “brand.” Corridor signage could also better direct visitors to Barnhardt Circle, a number of people said. One idea was to make the 6th Cavalry Museum a visitor center.
Joy Carpets Inc. chairman of the board Denis Dobosh suggested the community relocate some of its assets – such as historical artifacts like a cannon or monument – to immediately improve the look of LaFayette Road. Dobosh said he would be willing to help by donating property to relocate such assets, even though his company is a national distribution center and would not benefit from the renovation as would retail stores or restaurants located on LaFayette Road.