Revised downtown plan can improve appearance
City planners have proposed a new downtown redevelopment plan six months after irate property owners forced withdrawal of a plan many considered too restrictive.
While the targeted district, bounded generally by Sixth and Fourth avenues Southeast and Fourth and Eleventh streets, is obviously in transition from primarily residential to commercial uses, planners must be careful not to make the new standards too lax.
The neighborhood has potential for positive development, but has been in decline for years. The city must do something to reverse the trend.
The plan invites new development by encouraging block and lot consolidation. The current checkerboard of existing zoning classifications impedes such development.
Planners have revised the language of the proposed regulations to exempt existing businesses from landscaping and building fašade requirements. The revision should put to rest complaints voiced by existing business owners, many of whom seem unconcerned about the appearance or integrity of the historic neighborhood.
City planners hope new commercial development that complies with landscaping and building standards will eventually take hold in the targeted area. We hope so, too. The high-profile neighborhood is one of the first visitors see when entering Decatur from the north and east.
All it would take is one or two highly visible, attractive developments utilizing the space between Sixth and Fourth avenues to shame existing businesses into improving their appearances.
In a city where property suitable for prime commercial development is growing scarce, the downtown redevelopment plan can be a catalyst for attractive construction and economic development.