LaFayette Road is essentially the city’s downtown corridor. The plan focuses on the portion of the road stretching from Chickamauga Battlefield Park to the GA. 2A intersection, less than a mile.
If the master plan is not in place, the group’s efforts could be wasted.
A grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) helped the refresh committee — a group of eight Fort Oglethorpe professionals — get training and write grants for the development of downtown.
The purpose was to teach the refresh committee what to do when a private entity borders federal land, such as the case in which the city of Fort Oglethorpe borders Chickamauga Battlefield Park.
When the refresh committee established a plan for revitalizing the downtown corridor, it was sent to an engineering firm for specifications. The ARC set aside $20,000 for the master plan design to be completed.
“The ARC won’t pay if the master plan is submitted after March,” said downtown development authority chair and refresh committee member Jeff Epperson at the DDA meeting Monday, Feb.18.
The deadline has been looming for several months. The longer it takes to develop a plan, the farther back the revitalization efforts are from taking shape. Once the plan is completed and approved by the city council, another grant from the ARC, along with private funding from a variety of sources, will go toward restructuring the road.
The construction includes creating a median with turn lanes, a multipurpose lane for walkers and bicycles, street lamps, landscaping and possibly benches.
The plan is on the agenda for the city council’s Feb. 25 meeting.
Though the completion of the master plan for LaFayette Road is currently in limbo, it isn’t the only plan the DDA is concerned about coming to fruition.
The “opportunity zone” is a state initiative and a completely different proposal submitted to the state House of Representatives for consideration this congressional session, according to Epperson.
“It (the opportunity zone) is a different thing, but it all goes hand-in-hand to benefit the city of Fort Oglethorpe,” Epperson said. “It’s to beautify and bring in more commerce to the city by offering a tax credit for businesses.”
The primary focus of the opportunity zone is historic downtown, but other areas are included as deemed appropriate. Such areas include the old Bi-Low across from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School, as well as a set of warehouse property behind Chick-Fil-A. Inoperable warehouses are the target areas because those places could easily be used for businesses and be revitalized to beautify the city. The tax break is based on new jobs added to the city. A credit for up to 10 years gives employer incentives to locate into Fort Oglethorpe.
“We’ve been working hard on this for awhile. It would be nice to see something,” Epperson said.
The DDA was established in 1992 as a program managed through the state Department of Community Affairs. Four years ago Epperson came on board as chairman of the DDA, joining the refresh committee in 2011 and starting work on the master plan. The main objectives of the DDA are intertwined with the master plan and opportunity zone initiatives. Growth for Fort Oglethorpe means the DDA is successful in all their efforts for revitalization and progress.