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Winder, Loganville receive town center project grants

ATLANTA - The cities of Winder and Loganville received two of the six 2009 livable centers initiative grants on Friday, issued by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The grants - to be used for both cities' town center projects - will promote quality growth and enhanced livability. As part of the ARC's total grant awards of $596,000, Winder will receive $96,000 and Loganville will receive $80,000. The municipalities join former winners Suwanee, Duluth and Norcross, to name just a few of the area's past victors.

Suwanee put its grant toward its town center project, and Norcross teamed with the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District to improve and further study the area in and around the Indian-Trail, Beaver Ruin Road locale.

According to ARC Chairman Sam Olens, the LCI program created in 1999 has been transformative for many communities in the 10-county area that the ARC represents.

"LCI has helped these areas become quality magnets for residents and businesses alike acting as a catalyst for positive change all around them," Olens said.

The goal of the LCI program is to assist local governments in devising strategies that reduce traffic congestion while improving air quality. This is to be accomplished by better connecting homes, shops and offices while at the same time enhancing streetscapes and pedestrian amenities. With the latest round of winners, the LCI program has assisted 96 communities with more than $140 million in awards.

"Local communities are eager to revitalize their town centers and to plan for future growth along major corridors to create places that foster a neighborhood feel," said Dan Reuter of ARC's land use division. "LCI grants allow them to accomplish this and the cumulative effect of these projects is changing the face of the Atlanta region."

According to the ARC, since the first LCI awards were awarded in 2000, 67 percent of all new office space in the region has been built within LCI areas. The ARC also said that LCI areas have attracted 8.5 percent of all new residential units constructed in the region and 21 percent of all new commercial developments.

In the case of Winder, according to city administrator Bob Beck, the study area is the traditional town center and the area around it, which encompasses 546 acres. Beck said portions of that area are in need of improvements that would enhance vehicular and pedestrian mobility while encouraging mixed-use development.

For the suburban community of Loganville, said Edgar Brush of the city's downtown development authority, the two study areas the grant award will focus upon are its downtown area on Main Street and a short strip of commercial properties on U.S. Highway 78. He said the intent of the study is to develop a plan that will create an identifiable focal point for downtown that can become the reason to attract activities and create a true sense of place.