The results of a UGA workshop on the update of Covington's Downtown Master Plan paint a very attractive picture for the future of the city's downtown, though that future hinges on the availability of funding to implement the Master Plan.
The workshop, or "charrette," was led by fourth-year landscape architecture students with UGA who have spent the past semester studying urban design under the tutelage of Environmental Design Instructor Randy Vinson at the university's design studio in Clark's Grove.
In updating Covington's Downtown Master Plan, the students focused on five specific properties/projects within the downtown study area.
Those five projects are the dried Indian Creek greenway from U.S. Highway 278 to Ivy Street, connectivity between government facilities on Stallings and Usher Street, Emory Street from U.S. Highway 278 to Washington Street, a possible neighborhood park on Conyers and Reynolds Street and a possible mixed-use development between Pace and Elm Street.
The results of the three-day charrette were shared with the public at a special presentation at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning Wednesday afternoon.
Jacob Lindsey, an alumnus of the UGA design studio and a landscape architect, told the gathered crowd while the current housing slump and recession might make the prospect of revitalizing Covington's downtown with trendy boutique shops and ample green space seem unlikely, it was important to put the proper plans in place now, so that when funding and a demand for new housing and shopping amenities returns, the city is prepared for it.
UGA students recommended the potential community park in Harristown be built with plenty of night lighting to discourage the park becoming a place for delinquent activities.
In their plans the students also recommended keeping all of the site's healthy trees while cutting down the dead ones.
A pavilion where family reunions and church groups could meet was also recommended. The site of the potential park is owned by developer Lee Durden who would like to build a mixed-use development across the street from the park. Durden is contemplating a public/private initiative for the park.
For the dried Indian Creek greenway, UGA students advocated "an emerald necklace" with larger parcels of green space representing jewels in the necklace linked by strands or trails and walkways.
Students recommended a two-story mixed use development building be built in the space between the train tracks and the dried Indian Creek at the site of an old car wash. Students recommended the building be tucked back into the trees to give the space more character. Commercial and retail space were recommended for the bottom of the building with apartments and office space taking up the top floor.
More sidewalks were the main advisement for students focusing on bringing more connectivity to government facilities in the downtown. A two-story parking garage was recommended for the space next to the new Judicial Center. The space is now vacant and was, until recently, occupied by a dry cleaners.
Students working on the re-development of Pace Street from the Covington Square to U.S. Highway 278 recommended a mixture of trendy town homes and high-density mixed-use development buildings for the space.
"The further away from downtown, the less friendly it felt," said UGA student Kenny Thompson of the Pace Street commercial area.
Lindsey said there was a high demand for artist space and more art galleries which could be met with more mixed-use developments in the Pace Street area.
Throughout the presentation, students echoed one another in their recommendations of raised crosswalks to cut down on the speed of cars driving through pedestrian and residential areas, more street trees to beautify the area and more sidewalks to encourage connectivity and accessibility.
The UGA students will be finishing up their recommendations for Covington's Downtown Master Plan in the next two weeks. Once complete the updated plan will be presented to the Covington City Council and Newton County Board of Commissioners for consideration.