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City looking into park near square

LAWRENCEVILLE - A downtown revitalization panel gave the go-ahead Monday night for a $30,000 study that will provide plans for turning eight blocks near the Historic Courthouse Square into a park.

The city-owned property loosely bordered by Jackson, Luckie and Clayton streets now holds police headquarters and several utility departments.

City officials want to move the departments and turn the industrial land into a city center that would complement downtown revitalization efforts.

The public space would include an amphitheater and would be bordered by mixed-use development blending residences and businesses - all of which would bring more people downtown, according to proponents.

Atlanta consulting firm Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates will devise a "master plan" showing how all the parts could fit on the land and what it might look like.

"At some point you have to develop a concept plan showing what you want to do, and I think Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh will be valuable in helping us do that," said Downtown Development Authority member Allen Richardson.

The DDA and City Council will each pay for half of the study.

Also Monday, the DDA discussed tweaking rules for alcohol in the downtown area, including allowing open containers during outdoor festivals and events. Also discussed was allowing "beer gardens" where vendors could sell alcohol in fenced-off areas.

The dialogue was spurred in part by concerns from some downtown restaurants who say their business suffers during events like the city's Fourth of July celebration.

Citizens also ask if they can bring wine to eat with their picnic meals, said Jay Markwalter, executive director of the city's tourism and trade association.

"We did have people say, 'Can we put a bottle of wine in our (picnic) basket?' and we had to say, 'No,'" Markwalter said.