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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2007
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EDITORIAL

Find ways to remake downtown Decatur

The late John Caddell used to say civic leaders of an earlier time called on him as an attorney to figure out how they could legally accomplish plans that provided much of Morgan County's growth.

He, of course, was a civic leader, too, and he found ways to knock down the barriers that bureaucrats love to throw up when it comes to change.

Every decade or so, Decatur gets a downtown development group that means well and works hard. Yet, the results are the same; downtown continues to look like portions of Germany after World War II. Legal issues and differing philosophies always stifle progress.

Ralph and Glenna Jones own property downtown and are habitual promoters of redevelopment. They, as the saying goes, put their money where their mouths are. They invest.

Now, they are asking the city to give tax incentives to owners of long-vacant property as a way to spur growth. The city says it has no power to do so.

The city and county governments are committed to helping with the proposed move of Calhoun Community College's fine arts program to downtown. That move would give the area a big boost with its 300 students and staff and faculty being in the area on most days.

Then there is Bank Street, the success story of the inter city. But, according to one owner there, the city's lack of support is the reason the less-developed end of the street remains stagnant.

He said he offered to build buildings on his vacant lots if the city would install diagonal parking. The city promised to do so, he said, but has not changed the parking. That should not require legislative action, as City Hall says giving tax incentives would.

One long-range plan has Bank Street development flowing along Lee Street and into the heart of downtown.

Perhaps the city should talk to owner Axel Hein again about his plan to take one small step toward improvement.

There are ways to accomplish both goals if the city tries hard enough.

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