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Swainsboro Experiencing Significant Downtown Development Investment

November 9, 2015
A worker applying the sign for the Berni’s on West Main restaurant that will soon open in downtown Swainsboro.
This story originally appeared in the November 2015 edition of Georgia's Cities.

Carpenters, heavy equipment and building supplies have all been famil­iar sights in downtown Swainsboro lately. In the largest construction boom in downtown Swainsboro in more than a decade, the community will gain multiple newly-remodeled spaces that will serve as offices, restau­rants and public facilities.
 
“Every town large or small has something unique in their downtown personality,” said Swainsboro Mayor Charles Schwabe. “We’ve got to capi­talize on that and do some bootstrap development, one project at a time.”
 
Much of this improvement is lo­cated along Green Street in the down­town district. The movement was initiated with the announcement of the construction of the new Swains­boro-Emanuel County Fire Station at the northwest corner of West Pine Street and North Green Street. Over the last year, the location has been transformed into a state-of-the-art fire house that will feature administra­tive offices, training rooms, apparatus storage and an eight-bay garage for fire engines.
 
Shortly after plans for the new fire station were revealed, Swainsboro acquired the historic Dixie Theater through a donation from the family of Barbara and Tobe Karrh. Plans for the theater include historically sen­sitive restoration of the property to feature office space for the Emanuel Arts Council, gallery and educational/multipurpose space, and a function­ing theater that will provide both live and cinematic entertainment for the public.
 
While the theater restoration project will operate on an extended timeframe due to fundraising efforts, construction has already begun in securing the structure of the build­ing. A new roof and roofing system is currently being installed and light de­molition of the interior has revealed the original floorplan of the theater, which had been covered in a reno­vation completed approximately 50 years ago in converting the space into a retail store.

On the heels of the theater and fire station projects, several privately-owned downtown buildings are also undergoing significant renovations as longtime and new downtown busi­nesses alike look forward to the con­tinued growth of the district.
 
Future development includes the third phase of the downtown streetscape project which will improve downtown cor­ridors including Green Street where the theater and fire station are lo­cated, as well as integrate additional greenspace into the town’s gathering space, The Boneyard. The streetscape project will be completed with a TE Grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
 
“Downtown Swainsboro is cur­rently experiencing its highest com­mercial occupancy in many years, at approximately 93 percent,” said Swainsboro Director of Downtown Development Lynn Brinson. “In ad­dition to seeing businesses return to downtown, it is especially encourag­ing to see this level of reinvestment into our community.”
 
One of the six original Georgia Main Street cities, Swainsboro rejoined the Main Street Program in 2015.