This story originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of Georgia's Cities.
Downtown Ball Ground before and after.
Ball Ground city officials recently adopted a new slogan: “We Roll Out the Red Carpet—Not the Red Tape,” which symbolizes their philosophy on dealing with the Ball Ground business community and the way they took action to restore a declining downtown.
For decades, the city of Ball Ground’s downtown languished among closed up storefronts, inadequate pedestrian facilities and a lack of appeal for both residents and investors. Ball Ground Mayor Rick Roberts and the city council knew in order to inspire a change downtown it would require city leadership. Over a 10-year period the city worked to accomplish three projects starting with addressing a poor sewer system. “The city invested nearly $3 million to install a city-wide sanitary sewer system and made significant water infrastructure improvements in the downtown area to make every piece of property functional,” said Roberts. “Prior to this investment at least 70 percent of the properties downtown suffered from failed septic systems.”
Phase two of the plan was to make downtown more attractive. Made possible by nearly $800,000 in Transportation Enhancement (TE) funds through the Georgia Department of Transportation, the city completed a streetscapes project to make downtown pedestrian friendly.
In phase three, Ball Ground’s leadership focused on enhancing its municipal parks with a one million dollar investment to create space for sports tournaments, outdoor recreation, concerts and movies under the stars. These events allowed the city to attract more than 30,000 people to the downtown district last year, providing entertainment for residents and customers for businesses.
At the beginning of this endeavor, downtown Ball Ground had six operating businesses including two restaurants that were only open for one meal a day. Today there are 29 businesses operating downtown, four formerly empty buildings now under renovation to house six new businesses projected to open in July 2016, and two existing businesses are currently expanding.
Ball Ground city officials believe it’s safe to say that a once dying downtown is now alive with activity and a positive outlook on future projects.
“The next step for Ball Ground’s Historic Downtown is infill development. We are working with members of the development community to build housing within walking distance of downtown,” said Ball Ground City Manager Eric Wilmarth. “We are also working with members of the development community in an effort to expand retail and office space in the district with the ability to add residential space above the commercial buildings.”