Thomasville revitalization effort - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Thomasville revitalization effort

Thomasville- Part of Broad Street is blocked off because several downtown buildings are getting a face lift.

     The brief lane change on Broad Street is better than the possible alternatives. Two buildings there were in such need of structural support that they were in danger of falling apart onto the pavement below. And after a little digging, that's what sparked a major revitalization effort.

     There's a different type of beeping on Broad Street now. And Thomasville's downtown development authority director says it's the sound of revitalization. Sharlene Celaya has traveled the country for years helping to jump start small towns. "I not only care about Thomasville, I care about every small town in America," she says.

     The Broad Street project started out as a minor rehab. Then it blossomed into a major restoration. "The cracks that we thought were tiny cracks turned out to be cavernous cracks with huge support problems," says Celaya.

     Now the project is expected to cost more than $100,000. But it's a cooperative effort. The development authority offers grants to downtown building owners. "It's a real incentive to our merchants when they know that they can come and get some help when they need to fix their building," says Celaya.

     The revitalization isn't just about beautifying downtown. It's about developing Thomasville's economy through mandatory historic preservation. "At first there was a little resistance. People were afraid because it was something new and they didn't want someone telling them what they could and couldn't do with their property," says Celaya.

     But now, the rubble and the construction mess symbolizes increased property values, so most business owners embrace it. "Every town has its own individual look, its own history, and that's what needs to be preserved," says Celaya. Something that she describes as an escape from "Generica."

     Another major aspect of this revitalization is that the development authority is trying to boost Thomasville into a 24 hour city. Celaya says that, typically, Thomasville has only been a 9 to 5 kind of place. They're starting by building lofts and apartments above some of the businesses downtown. From there, the development authority is hoping to attract more restaurants, and possibly even some clubs for nightlife.

     Developers say they don't want to create a fake, gaudy type of city. They simply want to preserve Thomasville's original splendor.

Posted by stephen.ryan@walb.com