By Rachel Williams
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–Planners for the Texan Theater renovation met with interested contractors this week to present their concepts and bid information. It won’t be long before construction work begins to restore the historical location, which will attract business and activity to the downtown square. Five to six contractors have expressed interest in the bid documents, which are due back by March 3 for a closed bid process.
ArchiTexas Principal David Chase presented a slide show Monday of their vision for the renovation, detailing construction materials and finishes as well as the overall look and feel of the finished job. Funding sources for this project include a $1.4 million loan which has been allocated for this purpose.
A renovated Texan Theater will provide a venue for civic events on the courthouse square which would help invigorate downtown with greater economic growth, council members noted in August.
The 6,700 square foot space prices out at around $166 per square foot and holds between 250 and 400 people, depending on the seating and standing arrangements and could be rebuilt and opened within a year’s time. “This could be the next jewel in Athens,” Community Development Director Thanasis Kombos said.
Councilman Ed McCain agreed, pointing out that several global companies are planning visits to the city. “A revitalized Texan could be the reason they say, ‘I want to come here.’” McCain said.
To support the revitalization of the downtown area, the city council approved a façade improvement grant program, which will allow business owners in a nine-block area around the square to apply for funds from the city to historically restore and update the faces of their businesses. Using hotel occupancy tax funds, the city will support business owners in putting their best foot forward. The grant program passed with two council members recusing themselves due to conflicts of interest as building owners in the nine-block area.
“Our primary goals with this grant plan are the preservation of historical sites in our city as well as the encouragement of economic development,” Kombos said. “We don’t want to see any more of our downtown buildings disappear.”
Councilman Tres Winn asked, “If more funding were needed would we find the money for it?” Kombos answered, “The Hotel-Motel fund is at an all-time high right now, and so yes, we could increase the offering up to 50 percent of the funds.” Those who apply for the façade improvement plan will be encouraged to work together to use the same contractor for similar work in order to get better pricing and make their dollars go further. Applicants may also apply for funding from the Athens Economic Development Corp. to continue renovations beyond the façade, Kombos added.
Immediately afterwards, the council agreed to procedures for the Declaration of Conflict of Interest, by deciding that any council member must verbally announce the conflict of interest prior to a vote on any matter before the council. A written statement must be completed and notarized by the city secretary immediately following adjournment of the meeting in which the conflict of interest was discussed. The recusing Joe Whatley and Monte Montgomery followed that pattern exactly before the council considered the agenda item.
In other business, council members:
• tabled the final reading of an ordinance concerning amendments to provide for mobile food vendors subject to development standards and applicable zoning regulations until further discussion can be had.
• heard an update on Retail Recruitment from Lisa Denton, Athens Economic Development Center, discussing the work that R360, a retail consulting firm, has done to help Athens business growth. The report included cell phone usage mapping both during daytime and nighttime hours, comparisons to other similar locals and areas where gaps exist for potential retailers to fill. The marketing information is also displayed on a brochure for sending out to prospects, she presented. She added that retailers need the right sites at reasonable pricing to make Athens fa favorable location. “This is critical,” she said.
• heard and discussed the first reading of an ordinance concerning pro-rata permit fees for development. The new fee structure is incremental by dollars, bringing the price more directly relatable to the actual cost of the project.
Council gets peek at renovated Texan Theater/Contractors to submit bids on project
Posted by : February 16, 2017| On :