Developer to invest $15M in Flowery Branch

FLOWERY BRANCH - Flowery Branch's quiet downtown is about to branch out.

Hortman and Dobbs Developers will begin in late summer building a 3-acre, roughly $15 million mixed-used development along Chestnut, Church and Pines streets and Railroad Avenue.

The project, named Old Town Flowery Branch, will hold 21 condominiums, 14 lofts and seven townhomes for sale. About 35,000 square feet of retail and office space will be available for lease, said Marty Hortman, developer and 20-year Flowery Branch resident. A parking deck and half-acre park are also planned.

It will incorporate Country Craft furniture's former office building on Railroad Avenue that was constructed around 1890, Horton said.

Old Town Flowery Branch is part of the town's 2025 comprehensive plan, said Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

"Citizens have talked for years about making downtown a more friendly place for walkers where they can live downtown, shop and work and offer some uniqueness," Dunlap said. "We have public/private partnerships, so the opportunities are there, but we have to bring in space for the downtown to thrive."

The development is expected to revitalize Flowery Branch's downtown, which has been in a slump for decades, said James Riker, the town's planning director. A zoning code amendment would be required to allow for the project's proposed residential density, he said, adding that the City Council is expected to consider that amendment in early summer.

Nevertheless, the downtown area has experienced the first signs of an upswing lately.

"We are finishing up a transportation enhancement grant on Main Street," Riker said. "We undergrounded the power and utilities, installed new curbs and gutters, expanded sidewalks and added landscaping to downtown. A couple of new building permits have been issued for single-family homes in the downtown area."

Hortman's investment in downtown was the result of a good business decision and a desire to help revitalize the area.

"My kids grew up there and went to school there," Hortman said. "I wanted to help the downtown. Living there I saw and recognized a great business opportunity and the chance to make a great contribution to the town that has seen hard times in the last few years. There were two furniture industries that were there a long time. Country Craft goes back to 1890. It closed in 2002. Another one, Mooney Manufacturing, went out of business in 2002. It began in 1930s."