The July Downtown Development Authority meeting, called to order by chair Bob Blumberg. Attending Commissioner Jamie Doss, City Manager Sammy Rich, Megan Watters, Connie Sams, parking manager Becky Smyth, Megan Treglown
Item one: Improvements to 100 Broad St. (Pro Performance/Vicchrilli). $1,000 facade grant, part of a $35,000 overall improvement including rooftop upgrades. Vote: Approved unanimously.
Item two: Megan Watters on gateway signage updates. She updates the board on options and ideas. Riverside corner is one possible location as well as Levee area near Barron Stadium. Six options were presented including four from the vendor. (Photos of the all six are below. Have a favorite? Let DDA know by emailing email@example.com and let them know which number you like).
- The design is debated. Rich asks about something incorporating a theme from the monument at the Ledbetter Interchange (Porto Futurus).
- Blumberg asks about signage at Broad Street and Turner McCall. Watters talks about the Turner McCall/Riverside location as well.
- Doss asks about a time line. Watters said it will depend on the sign selection first and then cost.
Item three: Connie Sams on the June Downtown Saturday event, Spirit in the Sun: Mixed reviews on the event. Sams says it might become more of a push by River Dog. Blumberg says the feedback he heard was the overall response was “not at the level they expected” among downtown merchants.
- Blumberg talks about the First Saturday programs and how they morphed from First Fridays. He says people appear “lost” about downtown events since recent changes. The former method helped businesses such as his double revenue (Johnny’s, Bistro 208).
- Blumberg says the change to Saturday was because people had a problem getting off work and back downtown for the concerts. Also, he suggests posting the July event to perhaps the second weekend because everyone is out of town over Independence Day.
- The venue for such events also is an issue, Blumberg says. A Cotton Block specific event doesn’t provide much benefit for other Broad Street businesses.
- Discussion moves to asking both business owners and downtown patrons what they prefer.
- Sams says feedback from Fiddlin’ Fest guests included their asking for fast food alternatives vs. sit-down dining (such as perhaps selling slices of pizza at Johnny’s, etc.)
- Doss suggests moving fireworks from Ridge Ferry Park to downtown again on Independence Day. The idea gets a good reception. Rich says the elevation of the fireworks should be considered. The idea will be expanded at the August DDA meeting.
Item four: Treglown showcases a prototype of a new downtown website. It features events, lodging, business showcasing. Blumberg calls the prototype much cleaner and more contemporary than the current site. Also includes parking. Images have been supplied by V3.
- An intern has been working on posts for a blog that would be included.
- No firm deadline yet for when the website would be ready.
- Parking (Doss): Talked about the flashing lights for the pedestrian crossing (started in 200 block). Blumberg says he crosses the walk 30 times a day and calls it phenomenal. The test site moves next week. If successful, they would be used in the 100 through 400 blocks. Cost: To be determined. Early estimates were for $18,000 on a solar-powered option but the trees might prevent enough sunlight to make them work. Instead, the city is considering traditional wiring. Smyth says the parking office continues to work with new parking time changes. Surprisingly, some downtown residents have canceled their off-street parking permits. Blumberg asks whether the Third Avenue Deck would be free at nights and weekends; Smyth said that is not under consideration.
- Design (Watters): Says reaction to the flowers at the Second and Broad intersections has been positive. The question came up about what happens to the planters in winter months.
- Promotions (Sams): Says strong response already for October’s Fiddlin’ Fest including vendor reservations.
- Outreach (Treglown): Says June’s coffee break was very successful. Says doggie bags are now available downtown.
- Staff reports (Smyth): Says some refreshing is needed and under way at cross walks and other areas.
Adjournment: Blumberg asked for final comments and then asked the media present, Doug Walker for the Rome News-Tribune, and Hometown Headlines, for opinions. Walker talked about the latest trail initiatives in Rome. We instead asked what we could do better to inform the community about key downtown matters, acknowledging relations have been tough in recent months. We asked for quicker access to information outside of traditional media deadlines as our readers want news as it happens. Blumberg asked for cooperation in relaying information as he hopes it will build interest in downtown from consumers as well as business owners.