The city’s Downtown Development Authority wants to change that.
A DDA meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Temple Senior Center to try and formulate a plan for the future of the downtown area. In addition to the members of the Downtown Development Authority, the mayor and council, business owners and downtown property owners, residents are invited to the meeting if they have any ideas for improvements to the area.
“We’re trying to bring the council and the business owners to together to have kind of a brainstorming session to figure out exactly what we want to do with the downtown area,” said Councilman Richard Bracknell, who is also a member of DDA and the main organizer of the event. “Not that we’re going to necessarily start immediately, but establish some priorities of projects. Hopefully, we’ll get some ideas together and then see what we need to do to fulfill that wish list.”
The DDA and council can plan all they want, but until they get the downtown property owners on board very little will be accomplished.
“We want to get the people downtown together to hear what they want to see downtown since they’re the ones who own the buildings,” said DDA board member Lynn Ford. “We’re trying to work it that way and see if we can get some help from them. What we really need is an anchor store in there, but in the meantime this will help us get everybody together to see what everyone wants to do.”
One problem the DDA has had in making any improvements to the downtown area — including a vacant building owned by the DDA — has been lack of funding, Ford said.
In most cities, an agency like the DDA is funded through money generated from the hotel/motel tax, But Temple has no motels, much less a hotel, so there are no funds available from that revenue source. The only funding available to DDA is a $2,000 annual stipend from the city’s general fund budget, but the agency has to spend money it doesn’t have first and then be reimbursed.
“What we hope to do if we get our dream in place is we can look at a number of funding mechanisms such as using future SPLOST dollars or we could look to see what types of grants are available,” Bracknell said. “But, unless we try to start developing some type of comprehensive list of projects we’re just kind of sitting out there doing nothing. We’re not going to stay in this recession forever, so if we kind of have our ducks in a row starting out there are any number of ways we can go. ”
Though the DDA has no money to speak of, it can help downtown property owners secure low-interest loans for renovations to their buildings, if they choose, but even that offers little incentive to downtown property owners in this economy.
“It’s hard to tell people they need to fix up their buildings when there is no guarantee of any rent they’re going to get,” Ford said.
Regardless, Bracknell is optimistic a list of projects can be drawn up to help point the downtown area in the right direction when funds become available.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to bring everybody together,” he said. “Now, whether or not we can accomplish this, I think it’s a very lofty goal, but everything has to start somewhere.”