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Clarkston kicks off $5.7 million streetscape plan

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 12/13/2013, 6 a.m.
Clarkston residents Kitti Murray and Doug Guess discuss streetscape ideas cpatured on display boards from engineering and consulting firm AMEC. Photo by Jennifer Ffrench-Parker

By December 2018, the city of Clarkston expects to look very different.

Instead of nondescript roads, city leaders say there will be successful streets that will create a sense of place and encourage business and consumer investment in the Southeast’s most diverse city.

The new look will be the result of a $5.7 million streetscape initiative, which city leaders kicked off at a Dec. 10 news conference called to announce the hiring of the international engineering and consulting firm AMEC that will prepare design plans.

The event was attended by current and newly elected officials, residents and other stakeholders.

The initiative, which has been eight years in the making, will create gateway monuments, ADA-compliant pedestrian systems, bike lanes, railroad crossing enhancements for pedestrians and motorists, decorative pavers, public art, creative signage, street lighting, modified on-street parking, and new granite curbs.

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Keith Barker

City Manager Keith Barker said the improvements that will be funded by a $3.6 million state and federal grant and $2.1 million low-interest loan from the State Road and Tollway Authority will be a catalyst for economic development.

“This will be a win-win for everyone,” Barker said.

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Robert Brown

The 1.6-mile project has been on the drawing board since 2005, when the Georgia Department of Transportation first earmarked its portion of the funds.

Barker said Clarkston did not have the $2.5 million local match but was not loan-ready when it first turned to the State Road and Tollway Authority for a loan from its revolving Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank program.

“When we first had some underwriting done, we didn’t do too well,” he said. “We were not credit-worthy, but we did not give up. We worked hard and we got our financial house together. We adopted financial and budget policies and procurement policy.”

The streetscape project will stretch from East Ponce de Leon Avenue between I-285 and Market Street; encompass portions of North Indian Creek, Church Street and Norman Road; and terminate at the entrance of the city’s Milam Park.

Barker said it will transform nondescript roads into successful streets and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

Outgoing Mayor Emanuel Ransom said he was at the table when the project was first proposed and the city stuck with it. He said he is happy to live to see it come to pass.

“I know the new mayor and council will stick with the plan and see it through until 2018 when we all will be able to walk across the tracks at Market Street, Church, and Ponce on a sidewalk,” he said. “Is that marvelous.”

Robert Brown, who represents DeKalb County on GDOT’s board, said the department is happy to partner with Clarkston to see the process move along.

He said the project will enhance safety and mobility and promote economic development.

“It will bring in businesses, tax dollars and all those things that help you to continue to thrive,” Brown said. “It’s obvious you are on the right path for the prosperity this community deserves.”

Chris Tomlinson, SRTA’s executive director, said that when Clarkston was approved for its loan in February, it was the first city to leverage the infrastructure loan bank funds that until then had only been used by community improvement districts.