The Stuart Town Council heard an update from Hill Studio on the Downtown Revitalization Project at its Oct. 19 meeting.
Owner David Hill said the project includes the 14 buildings that make up the Downtown area.
A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) will be sought in conjunction with the West Piedmont Planning District Commission (WPPDC) to cover part of the construction costs.
Hill said one part of the construction grant will include the creation of a mega deck that connects the back areas of the Downtown buildings. The deck would be in the swell between the two larger roads downtown, with South Main Street on one side and Patrick Avenue on the other.
“It will actually solve a number of access problems, particularly handicapped accessibility. It allows the development of several unutilized spaces nearby and allows for special event uses,” he said.
Improvements to the Farmers’ Market are another part of the project. One idea suggested by town residents is a permanent, sturdier roof to the stage area.
“It improves the existing facility,” Hill said, and added that he believes a playground area should be added to the market, possibly near the slope of the back area.
“Sometimes the younger members of the audience don’t want to watch the concert as long as the older members do, so it would be nice to have a place to play,” he said.
Another initiative brought to the forefront by residents is the need for more parking.
Hill said there’s an adjacent parking lot that could potentially be used if the town works with the landowner. He estimated the area could accommodate more than 100 parking spaces.
Town Manager Bryce Simmons said he doesn’t believe the property owner would be opposed to working with the town to increase parking.
Hill said the façade program is another key piece for Downtown revitalization. He estimated about five business owners in the town are currently considering applying for a grant. One has been awarded to Mattie B’s.
Other potential future initiatives include the creation of a town square and gateway bridge into Stuart, a large public lot, a hotel, and increased connectivity in the area
Mayor Ray Weiland said it would be nice to wake up the Downtown area again “because a lot of businesses have left that area.” The improvements “could absolutely make it a desirable location,” he added.
When going through the workshops, Simmons said Hill told him “through these CBDG projects, you want to turn your worst spot into your best spot.”
In other matters, the council:
*Heard a presentation about potentially installing solar panels on the Stuart Volunteer Fire Department building.
*Created a solar committee composed of Weiland, and council members Erica Wade and Terry Dalton.
*Heard an update from Sean Adkins, the county’s Economic Development Director, about the Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) façade grant.
*Approved the meeting minutes as amended.
*Heard an update on the waste-water treatment plant.
*Heard an update on public works projects.
*Paid the bills.
Councilman Dean Goad did not attend the meeting.