Athens faces a whole host of changes and challenges in 2013.
People who have been in their jobs for five, ten, even fifteen years are leaving their positions. Organizations are facing new challenges as people involved with them retire. Landmarks will vanish and new buildings will rise. Popular elected officials will leave office.
1) With Frank Bishop & Company finishing a large retail development on Epps Bridge Parkway in Oconee County, many are wondering what effect it will have on the established businesses along Atlanta Highway and Georgia Square Mall. A group has been meeting for weeks to design a plan that assures the area continues to thrive. Lets hope they do and it does.
2) Athens Clarke County is losing some key players in its county government staff. Sandi Turner, the long-time public information officer, is moving to Los Angeles, to join her husband and tackle a new job. . Her resignation was followed by that of Laura Miller, the well-regarded and professional parking director for the ADDA. Assistant Police Chief Alan Brown and Barbara Timmons, the head of organizational development, are both retiring. Deputy county manager Bobby Snipes retired in 2012, and his replacement will start in January. Replacing these people will be difficult. The loss of so much institutional history is unfortunate.
3) New developments along Thomas, Clayton and, perhaps, Oconee, streets. As the year progresses, we will see construction begin on The Standard, a mixed-use, student-oriented development on Thomas. Next to the expanded Classic Center will be a new hotel. Selig Enterprises may have removed WalMart from Oconee Street, but it is planning to have a smaller "box" in the development it builds. The company is expected to present plans to the planning department in February. And a Chicago-based firm will work through the HPC as it prepares to build on the Suntrust parking lot between Clayton and Broad. Snow Tire is supposed to become a craft brewery, and Fred Moorman is turning the offices of One College Square into residences.
4) What will happen to the proposal for the Buena Vista Historic District? Will the Sigma Chi fraternity get the green light for a fraternity house on North Milledge Avenue? Or will the property's owner sell it to Historic Cobbham?
5) Good-bye to ACC Commissioners Alice Kinman and Ed Robinson, and thank you for your years of service. Hello to Allison Wright, a former member of the Clarke County School Board, and Jerry NeSmith, a long-time member of the Planning Commission, among other civic duties. Good-bye and thank you to Keith Heard and Doug McKillip, and hello to Spencer Frye and Regina Quick. Let's hope the newly configured legislative delegation works with the ACC Commission better than the old one did.
6) Good-bye to UGA President Michael Adams. He is to be thanked for the way the campus looks today--and it is beautiful. An attractive campus is among the features students consider when decide what school to attend. UGA has risen in national prominence while he has been president. His successor will be chosen in the next few months. Changes in how state money is alloted for higher education could have a profound effect on UGA, and, Athens. Stay tuned on the fate of Legion Pool, which seems to have dodged a bullet thus far.
7) The renovated and expanded Athens Clarke County Library will open in early 2013. Hooray! Emmanuel Episcopal should see the completion of a large addition into the parking lot east of the church. The facilities housing the Potter's House and the Emmanuel Thrift House will come down, as did the Huddle House, but the gas station on the corner will stay.
8) Sound City will come to Athens in January. This is an exciting development for our city, and one for which we should thank Create Athens and Sandi Turner.
9) Good-bye to Peggy Chapman, in mid-2013, and perhaps, good-bye to the Economic Development Foundation as well. Athens Clarke County will be figuring out how a newly funded office for economic development will function and then staffing that office. Hiring the right person will be crucial.