SUWANEE -- Members of Suwanee's Downtown Development Authority met at City Hall late last month for an annual retreat where they discussed ideas for the direction of several areas of the city.
"It was really just a big, giant brainstorming session," said Alison Starnes, the city's Downtown and Business Development Manager. "We all got to know each other a little more."
Some of the issues discussed at the retreat were Pierce's Corner, connectivity between Town Center and Old Town, economic development, ways to revive Old Town and arts and entertainment.
Old Town, and connectivity between Town Center and Old Town, were the topics most discussed or labeled as higher priorities.
Susan Peacock, a senior economic and community consultant, facilitated the retreat on behalf of Jackson EMC.
Peacock works around the state with cities, counties, chambers of commerce, nonprofit groups and tourism groups; any other entity that has a stake in economic development.
"I was very pleased with how they participated and opened up to share ideas," she said. "Everybody seemed very engaged."
The annual event, which the DDA has had for about 10 years, is a way the group could be more casual since its monthly meetings are tightly structured, Starnes said.
Peacock told the DDA members that they have to be keepers and implementers of the vision of downtown.
Peacock posted sticky notes to a wall and organized categories, then asked the group what was the most important area to focus on.
"If money weren't an issue, what would it look like," said Kevin O'Brien, chairman of the DDA. "What can we do to this area? What do we want our focus to be, and we try to narrow it down to priorities."
At the end of the retreat, James Davenport applauded the Suwanee Police Department because he realized crime wasn't part of any of the discussions during the four-hour period. And Mayor Jimmy Burnette said these ideas should be cross-referenced with the city's short-term work program.
Starnes also updated members on the status of the historic register application for Old Town. Starnes said representatives from the state Department of Natural Resources sent the city a letter in June that said it meets requirements to comprise a historic register district. Ken Kocher, a consultant hired by the city, is now working to complete a formal application. Starnes also said the city has targeted late 2016 as a potential date for construction to revamp Buford Highway so it remains a two-lane road, but includes sidewalks, multiuse trails and landscaped medians.