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Revitalization recurring topic during Duluth candidate forum

Candidates for Duluth City Council posts 1 and 2 participated in a candidate forum Tuesday evening hosted by the Payne-Corley House. They are, from left, Louis Tseng, Marsha Anderson Bomar, David Cossette, Kirkland Carden, Jim Dugan and Seth Grey. Duluth Chief Municipal Court Judge Charles L. Barrett III, far right, moderated the forum. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

Candidates for Duluth City Council posts 1 and 2 participated in a candidate forum Tuesday evening hosted by the Payne-Corley House. They are, from left, Louis Tseng, Marsha Anderson Bomar, David Cossette, Kirkland Carden, Jim Dugan and Seth Grey. Duluth Chief Municipal Court Judge Charles L. Barrett III, far right, moderated the forum. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

DULUTH — Residents of Duluth want to know how candidates for city council plan to revitalize the downtown area and bring more foot traffic to the heart of the city.

The revitalization of downtown Duluth was a recurring topic during a candidates forum Tuesday night hosted by the Payne-Corley House, from how to bring businesses into the area to keeping residents informed of city events. Six candidates participated in the forum, including Post 1 incumbent Marsha Anderson Bomar, her two challengers David Cossette and Louis Tseng, and Post 2 incumbent Jim Dugan and his challengers, Kirkland Carden and Seth Grey.

Duluth Chief Municipal Court Judge Charles L. Barrett III moderated the forum, which included questions submitted online by residents.

“We need to continue increasing our cultural awareness within the town,” Cossette said on increasing foot traffic. “We need to look at how we can revitalize our downtown area … and find out, are we suitable for more restaurant and retail spaces?”

Bomar said revitalization entails a combination of public investment and private business investments.

“It has to be a partnership,” she said. “There are things that are appropriate for the use of public dollars and some private.”

Tseng said the city needs to create cultural celebrations, as 64 percent of Koreans who live in Georgia reside in Duluth yet the annual festival celebrating Korean culture has been moved to Suwanee this year.

“When they go to Suwanee, guess where they spend their money? Suwanee Town Green, not Duluth,” he said.

To help the city take advantage of the economic recovery and advance redevelopment, Carden expressed his support of the special purpose local option sales tax that will be voted on by Gwinnett residents in a referendum during the Nov. 5 election.

“I’ve talked to people and elected officials on the local and county level, everybody up from city commissioners to Charlotte Nash, and they all tell me the same thing, if this SPLOST doesn’t pass, then things are going to get really rough for a lot of municipalities in Gwinnett,” Carden said.

Dugan said new businesses and working with existing business owners are essential to redevelopment.

“We also need to work with the chamber of commerce and we need to continue to push applications for grants and public funding for the various projects we’re undertaking.”

Grey said his approach to redevelopment is two-fold — serving existing businesses to attract new businesses and helping families keep more money in their pockets.

“Keeping the property tax low is very important,” he said.

Duluth residents will head to the polls Nov. 5 to choose who will represent city council posts 1 and 2. Incumbent Billy Jones is running unopposed for council Post 3.