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Porterdale gets Main Street program
Manager trying to recruit artisans, restaurants downtown
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Porterdale is getting a Main Street program, a move that will give city officials more tools in their efforts to turn downtown Porterdale into an entertainment district.

Porterdale was one of 19 cities selected for the Main Street Start-up Program, a two-year training program through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs that helps cities protect and develop their downtowns.

Main Street Porterdale Manager Teri Haler has been pursuing several plans for downtown since she was hired this summer and said she is "ecstatic, relieved and pretty excited to be included in that type of program, where you have lots of access to training and resources, networking, connections and all that sort of thing.

In late February, Haler will attend Main Street University, a rigorous week-long session that will help her prepare to build up her the Main Street program. She’s already working on recruiting a board of directors.

Destination Porterdale

Haler hasn’t had a shortage of ideas since she took the Porterdale job, and she’s made progress on some fronts.

A 22-stop historic driving tour of Porterdale is already in place and is being given to special guests, including people looking to invest in the town, by Porterdale Police Lt. Jason Cripps, in a Humvee. Haler is working to further develop the tour, along with a pamphlet to accompany the verbal histories Cripps gives.

Haler also is trying to recruit artisans to Porterdale and has been speaking with two experienced business partners about the possibility of opening a vintage furniture store and manufacturing shop downtown. The business  would repurpose old barn wood into furniture. The two owners, from Metro Atlanta, have 20-plus years of experience in high-end home décor and manufacturing and sell all over the world. They are interested in a made-in-the-U.S. product, Haler said. She’s still working to recruit a fish-fry business downtown, to play off the Yellow River recreation scene, as well as a sports bar, to increase dining and entertainment options.

Haler said she’s also pushing to start developing a "glamping" site.

"Glamping" is the trend of glamorous, or high-end, amenity-heavy, camping – at the Yellow River Park, which has access at the intersection of Peachtree, Hemlock and Railroad streets. The park is a 30-plus acre tract where more than 4 acres has been turned into a green space with a paved trail. Volunteers continue to work to clear brush along the Yellow River, Haler said, and a kayak launch will be installed at the park in early 2014, while funding for a larger boat ramp is being pursued by the city. The Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources had said it would pay for the ramp if it had the funds needed.

Another encouraging development for the city is being one of five Georgia communities to participate in the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH), a collaborative program involving multiple state, nonprofit and private organizations that helps communities revitalize neighborhoods and address housing issues.

Haler said she’s also talking to the Covington Home Depot about potentially partnering with Porterdale to beautify the housing immediately around downtown.

One of the core aspects of Main Street is historic preservation, and Haler said the Porterdale Historic Preservation Committee is working to develop housing guidelines.

One project that’s complete is the initial renovation of the historic Porterdale Gym, which Haler said will have a grand opening in the spring.

 Next steps

City officials will have a planning retreat in January, and Haler plans to ask elected officials and city employees what they want to see done in the city. Part of the Main Street start-up program will be developing two-year and five-year plans for Porterdale.

"I believe that being selected for the Main Street program is an indication of the confidence that the Georgia Dept. of Community Affairs has in Porterdale, based on the progress that has been made here," Mayor Arline Chapman said.

"As part of the program, we will be able to avail ourselves of expert advice. The program will guide us based on the success experienced in other cities of our size.  Our choice of Teri Haler to head up this program is the icing on the cake.  She will lead us in achieving the goals that we have set to make our downtown a viable entity and a place that people with want to visit and enjoy."