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Italian restaurant, businesses interested downtown Athens

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — An Italian restaurant isn't the only prospect interested in locating in downtown Athens.

The owner of Giovanni's Italian Grille in Hartselle has announced plans to expand his restaurant to the former Wilson's Fabric store in downtown Athens.

On Monday, City Council members said there is even more interest in downtown. Councilman Harold Wales wouldn't name the businesses but said another eatery and a manufacturing-type industry are interested in locating on the square.

He said someone also has approached him about buying a downtown building and creating apartments. The city is undergoing a six-to-nine-month process to update is zoning ordinance, and one area it wants to look at is allowing loft apartments downtown.

Councilwoman Milly Caudle said she hopes the city won't make prospects wait until the city updates its zoning to allow lofts. Caudle said there is a businesswoman who wants to open an antique shop on Market Street across from Dobb's Shoe Repair, but the woman wants to live above her store.

"I think this is something that is needed, and that we need to address now," Caudle said.

Public Works Director James Rich said it would be better for the city to address it as part of the upgrading rather than change part of the ordinance now.

Mayor Dan Williams said there are issues the city needs to look at before allowing loft apartments, such as parking, fire codes, clothes lines and children playing on the square.

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