If the votes taken during Tuesday night's meeting on the Downtown Athens Master Plan are transformed into reality, here's what downtown Athens is going to look like:
* College Avenue will be closed to vehicles between Clayton and Broad
* The river will be developed "strategically," with some protected areas
* A rubber-tired trolley will help people circulate through downtown
* A green space along Jackson Street will connect Lay Park and the Lyndon House with the rest of downtown
* Housing for urban professionals will be constructed
* A commuter rail line will connect Athens and Atlanta
* A rail line will run through the UGA campus to downtown
But Tuesday night's meeting wasn't about reality as much as it was about preferences, feelings, dreams and ideas. The 200 people in the crowded meeting room threw out ideas like rice at a wedding, saying, among other things what they like about downtown and what needs to be improved.
Judy Goltzer knows what she and her husband Michael like about downtown: the music, the nightlife, the local businesses and the restaurants. In fact, they stumbled upon downtown while they were visiting Athens 12 years ago from Detroit. "It was a good reason for us to move," she said.
Some people at the meeting felt downtown Athens needs to have more handicap accessibility; better and safer pedestrian walkways; retail operations on the river; food carts; no big boxes; a human scale to the buildings; public bathrooms; more shade trees; and more outdoor community space.
Athens native Linda Davis, who returned to Athens in 2005 after spending most of her life elsewhere, said downtown is much different than it was when she was growing up. Now, there are few African Americans and not a lot of black-owned businesses or clubs.
"With Hot Corner gone, there're not a lot of places to experience black culture," she said. "I can better say how I want to feel more than what I want."
Her husband and she lived in Germany, so she would like Athens to meet the cleanliness standards she experienced there (Residents of her apartment complex took turns cleaning the stairwell.) She likes the Civil Rights displays in Birmingham, and the sculptures in city parks. She would like some acknowledgement of a shared heritage in downtown Athens, "which could lead to an honest discussion. We need to honor our cultural past," she said.
UGA professor Jack Crowley, who's designing the master plan with a team of graduate students, said they will post the audience reactions and ideas on the project's website. And in February or March, there will be another public meeting on the Athens Downtown Master Plan.
You may also be interested in reading: