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On Monday, LaFayette residents met with the LaFayette Historic Preservation Commission at The Bank of LaFayette Community Room to discuss interest in reconstructing its downtown square.
A lot of LaFayette residents miss the Square and believe re-creating it would provide a place for people to walk, eat lunch and hold small concerts, said LaFayette Main Street and economic development director Cathy Edgemon. Creating a place for people to gather has helped other communities increase activity in downtown, bringing more people into stores and restaurants.
The crowd, which numbered a little more than 20 people, took a cautious attitude toward this possible reconstruction.
LaFayette resident Jack Hart, accompanied by various other voices, spoke of concerns from parking loss, to the simple logistics of traffic flow around a newly reconstructed green plaza.
I am worried that downtown businesses would loose 65 percent of their available parking, Hart said.
Josh Chapman, owner of Chapman Jewelry, suggested more studies to determine the effect of such a plaza on downtown business.
We need to know how traffic would flow around the square and what effect this traffic flow will have on parking accessibility, Chapman said.
Edgemon echoed the voices of City Council representatives and the mayor, who were on hand, when she said, We will not proceed with the Square plan if we see significant opposition or if merchants feel the plan would hurt their businesses.
The consensus of many on hand encouraged more development and emphasis placed on Joe Stock Memorial Park, which was described as the real focal point of the city.
After discussion on the matter ceased, it was determined that another meeting would be necessary to better gauge the openness of the plan by business owners located on the square.
A time for this meeting has yet to be determined.
Earlier this year, state Department of Transportation staff told city officials that re-creating the Square was a possibility and asked the city to provide a sketch of the proposed design. If the design is suitable, the DOT would work with city officials to refine it, and the city could apply for funds to assist with construction costs.
The county courthouse occupied the site from about 1838 until the present courthouse was built and dedicated in 1918. The old courthouse was demolished, and a small park created between the Patton and Villanow Street intersections on U.S. 27. Over time, the parks area shrank.
By the 1960s the Square more closely resembled a football-shaped greenspace that split the north- and southbound lanes of U.S. 27. The Confederate Monument and cannonball monument sat in the greenspace, but were moved to the Chattooga Academy, or John B. Gordon Hall, grounds when the median was removed.
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