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Thomasville’s Creative District Drives Economic Development

June 9, 2015  |  Karen Smith, Executive Director, Main Street & Tourism, City of Thomasville
The Fuzzy Goat, a whimsical shop featuring luxurious yarns and project pieces, was one of the first businesses to see the potential of a new creative district in downtown Thomasville.

In March of 2014, Thomasville residents and com­munity leaders came together to craft a vision for a new Creative District in an area of downtown for­merly known as “The Bottom.” All stakeholders be­lieved that this Creative District should embrace the geographic context of the land, and, at the same time, express Thomasville’s rich cultural heritage. Natural­ly, increasing economic opportunity and revitalizing another historic area of the city were also important considerations. It was decided that an outdoor amphi­theater space would rest in the heart of this area along with a trailhead for a new multi-purpose trail system that would connect the historic districts, parks and commerce centers of Thomasville. As the vision for this creative district came to­gether, a familiar pattern was recognized: Thomasville was once again using yester­day to create its tomorrow.
 
Across America we have seen how well-designed cultural and artistic expe­riences have the power to transform cit­ies. Visual arts, music, dance and theater, combined with unique public spaces, in­novative business concepts, restaurants and fresh retail ideas can breathe new life into communities. This combination sparks tourism, inspires creative enter­prise and attracts a talented workforce. For Thomasville, this project is designed to expand and enhance the already vi­brant downtown by featuring programs and businesses which complement the existing stores and enrich the visitor ex­perience. This plan fits well into the city’s highly suc­cessful Main Street approach with its steadfast focus on preservation-based economic development.
 
With this fresh attention, The Bottom is enjoying growth with its established businesses and with new retail and restaurant spaces. The Fuzzy Goat, a whimsi­cal shop featuring luxurious yarns and project pieces, was one of the first businesses to see the enormous potential of the area. By rehabbing and updating an existing historic structure, the shop struck a balance of creative energy and modern style within a historic building and neighborhood. This mixture of preserva­tion and innovation also comes together a few doors down at Bacchus Wine Bar, which features classic cocktails as well as cutting edge cuisine. Nearby, the Thom­asville Center for the Arts has created a striking and original space specifically designed to house artists-in-residence. These artists vary in disci­pline, yet lean heavily on Thomasville for inspiration.
 
The excitement surrounding the new Creative District has caught on quickly with business own­ers and consumers alike. Foot traffic in the area has already grown tremendously as visitors peek from the famous bricks of Broad Street, get curious, and take a short stroll down to The Bottom to find out what is going on. Several well attended events have also helped to showcase the district and build momentum and sup­port for the project so that it can reach its full potential.
 
In addition, the Creative District will benefit visitors and locals who are inter­ested in preserving the special sense of place that Thomasville has created over time. This unique sense of place gives Thomasville and its residents a strong identity and connection to the commu­nity, as well as the freedom to create art and engage in artistic expression in a safe and nurturing environment. This project will further foster this environment and be a lure to other creatives interested in contributing to this special, vibrant com­munity. As the plan comes together, the Creative District will seamlessly blend traditional southern aesthetics with a cur­rent sense of style and a strong desire to move forward and actively participate in what is next.
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