A year of planning, zoning and development controversy in 2011 has positioned Canton Road Corridor for beautification and business growth in 2012.
The residents and businesses along the Canton Road Corridor have struggled for decades to leave behind the salvage yards, industrial eyesores and vacant storefronts. Turning around Northeast Cobb’s central corridor has required collaboration among the county government, businesses and community groups.
Now the corridor’s future looks bright with a focus on further development and investment.
"At my town-hall meeting on the 16th Dana Johnson will be discussing the comp plan and Canton Road redevelopment project. I will be rolling out the Canton Road redevelopment plan at the NCBA luncheon meeting on the 15th and will announce the committee at that time," Birrell told Northeast Cobb Patch.
“With the new road construction and landscaping, it feels like the area is coming back to life after having gone downhill for a while.”
In his study "Revitalizing Commerce for American Cities," written for the Fannie Mae Foundation, K.F. Seidman says: "Physical improvements help change negative perceptions; improve the district’s attractiveness to shoppers, businesses, and investors; and generate new investment to reverse the disinvestment cycle."
The lesson for the Canton Road Corridor: If you beautify it, the businesses will come.
It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. Community watchdogs have had to keep officials on track.
Carol Brown, the chairwoman and co-founder of Canton Road Neighbors, scolded the Cobb County leadership in an article in The Marietta Daily Journal in March 2010: “While Northeast Cobb Commissioner Tim Lee and the DOT may be celebrating their ‘victory’ over local businessmen and neighborhood groups by getting the Canton Road SPLOST project done their way, with medians, no sidewalks and no lawsuit, the neighborhoods would do well to remember the promises made in 2005 when the next SPLOST is proposed.”
But even as the national economic recovery is slow to reach Cobb County, the fight to revitalize Northeast Cobb’s Main Street is finally paying off:
- The roadway safety and operational improvements in the 2005 SPLOST were completed.
- A stone facade was added to the new retaining walls in the business district.
- Some 5,100 feet of sidewalks and landscaping have given the formerly run-down corridor an upscale look.
- Roadway and pedestrian improvements to Canton and Jamerson roads have beautified the commercial center.
- Residents can follow new sidewalks to Kell High School.
- Those improvements are the beginning, not the end.
“We are hoping that local businesses and landscaping companies will adopt a section of Canton Road near their locations to help maintain the new landscaping without the use of any additional SPLOST funding,” Birrell told Northeast Cobb Patch at the landscaping open house in September.
Fran Ciulik, a Northeast Cobb resident for 36 years, offered support to the landscaping plans.
“With the new road construction and landscaping, it feels like the area is coming back to life after having gone downhill for a while,” Ciulik said. “I’m also happy about the new Walmart Neighborhood Market that will be coming here. Blackwell Shopping Center really is in need of a makeover.”
Beauty, then Business
The Walmart Neighborhood Market will lease space now occupied by American Thrift Store in Blackwell Square. Walmart plans to demolish the structure and rebuild, adding to the area’s improved ambience.
The Walmart supermarket is the biggest newcomer to the beautified Canton Road Corridor, but it’s not the only one.
Vortex, a motorcycle repair shop, and Knick Knack Shack, which sells furniture, gifts and accessories, have filled vacant storefronts in a retail plaza at 3778 Canton Rd. near Centerview Drive.
Vespucci's Pizza and Roy's Donut Shop opened in the new retail plaza next to RiteAid in the Canton-Jamerson commercial section.
Sigma Thermal, a regular at county Board of Commissioners meetings as it tries to develop a new corporate headquarters on Deen Road across from a residential area, has agreed to include landscaping, berm and sidewalks.
Meanwhile, last year the next to , and the company sold the scrap yard to Property Masters.
At the southern end of Canton Highway, from Rosedale south to the Canton Road Connector, Discount Tires has a new paint job, and a former Amoco station at the corner of Canton and Liberty Hill roads has been renovated to house a Big Deals store.
A Bright, Shiny Future
Birrell, in her second year representing the area as commissioner, is looking to continue the improvements at the southern end of the Canton Road Corridor.
Topping the agenda for her town-hall meeting a week from Thursday is a new marketing strategy to draw investment to that area.
Also at the meeting, county Planning Director Dana Johnson will discuss plans to promote development of vacant sites along the corridor.
The corridor has more help at the county level.
Birrell last year appointed David Poteet, a neighborhood advocate on corridor zoning cases, to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Planning Commissioner Christi Trombetti wants to initiate a formal planning process countywide that gets resident input on where and how to create community council jurisdictions that can be incorporated into the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
Still, no public voice has been stronger in the efforts to revitalize the Canton Road Corridor than that of Canton Road Neighbors’ Carol Brown. She makes it her mission to attend every zoning, planning and Board of Commissioners meeting to ensure that government promises become reality.
Brown warns that the fight to revitalize the corridor isn’t over. “For those who love controversy and political dogfights,” she wrote on the Canton Road Neighbors website, “2012 is shaping up to be a real mudbath.”
This article is part of "Dispatches: The Changing American Dream," our ongoing series about how people in Northeast Cobb are adapting to the challenges of life in the 21st century. You can find more Dispatches from across the country at The Huffington Post.