The University of Georgia Metropolitan Design Studio brings Georgia landscape architecture students to Newton County to study and redesign parts of the county. This year the students focused on two areas: the downtown Covington government district and the Almon Road corridor.
The students worked with county residents and leaders to learn about the areas and design plans that address problems and promote "smart," environmentally friendly growth. The program benefits both parties as students receive real world experience working with officials and residents and the county and cities get a free, fresh, outside perspective on how areas should be designed, UGA architecture professor Hank Methvin said.
The designs the students create provide an initial plan for a county or a city and are often expanded and carried out later. This year’s plans are still a work in progress and will be presented to the Covington city council and county board of commissioners in the near future. If anyone wants to see or comment on the projects they can visit or call The Center at (770) 788-0484.
Previous design projects over the past four years include: the downtown Oxford Town Plan, the Pace Street corridor, the Oak Hill area, including Denny Dobbs Park, and the rail and trail project from Porterdale to Shady Dale. All of these projects are being worked on by the county and various cities and are planned for completion.
Downtown Covington Government District
The government district was chosen because city and county government officials want to revitalize downtown. Mayor Carter said officials want a densely organized, walkable, green, multi-use downtown district that would be user friendly for government employees and county residents. The students’ plan is designed to be completed in three phases over the next 50 years.
Methvin said the project highlights are:
- creating a government campus, which places government buildings closer together and allows residents to easily walk from one to another
- building a new city hall, a new post office, a civic center, a hotel and other mixed-use business/residential buildings
- expanding downtown while maintaining the city’s small town feel
- condensing the amount of surface parking and replacing unused lots with green areas
- using greenspace to make downtown a liveable, walkable area 24 hours a day, seven days a week
o expand Dried Indian Creek greenway
o create pocket or "mini" parks around downtown
o create a green mall, a miniature of the Washington Mall
The government’s cost would be $29.4 million and the amount of private investment would be $7.2 million. The study provided resources for seeking state and federal assistance.
The Almon Road Corridor
This area extends from the railroad north of Almon south to Brown Bridge Road and from the Yellow River west to Jack Neely Road. The county chose the area because a large amount of growth is expected to take place in the near future. Here are the three areas the students focused on:
1. The Almon Community Revitalization – The Almon Community Revitalization project brings new life into the historic community of Almon. The revitalization is brought about by the economic stimulus of a solar-powered park and ride lot and the improvement of both vehicular and pedestrian infrastructure. A sequentially designed master plan encourages high-density, quality living while giving landowners the opportunity to invest in their own property and way of life.
a. The park and ride lot would be located near the current CSX rail line and allow residents to park their cars and use the bus service that would be provided by Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. This location could be converted to a rail stop location in the future if a proposed rail project from Atlanta to Augusta comes to fruition. Solar panels could then be placed over the parking structures, which would provide shade for cars, and produce energy for the area. This location gets a lot of sunlight and the facility would provide a $5 million net gain over the 30-year life of the facility.
2. The Conservation Corridor – The Conservation Corridor is an agricultural community that focuses on smaller lot sizes an alternative transportation system based on trails and community greens. The goal of the Corridor is to protect and preserve valuable agricultural land that will maintain the community making it completely self-sustaining.
a. This property would either be used for the agricultural community described above or it would be converted into a high-end commercial shopping area. Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby believes this is the "most ideal location for a retail and commercial corridor." He said retail development in this area would persuade Newton County residents to shop in Newton County instead of Rockdale County, strengthening the county’s tax base.
3. The Brown Bridge Boulevard and Community – The Brown Bridge Community is a mixed-use retail community that borders a green space preserved in perpetuity. It is accessed by the Crowell Road Boulevard which has been redesigned to include an extra lane of traffic in both directions that maintains the rural character of the area and improves its residents’ quality of life.
a. To accommodate increased traffic, Crowell Road would be turned into a multi-lane boulevard with tree lined medians. This would alleviate traffic congestion and make the area more environmentally friendly and eye pleasing.