Thursday, December 6, 2012
Ron Davis is the newest member of the Fort Oglethorpe Downtown Development Authority’s board of directors.
Retired from the mortgage banking business and currently a volunteer at the U.S. 6th Cavalry Museum, Davis resides in the city and said he has a keen interest in revitalization of its historic district. Recently he assisted members of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission in preparing materials necessary to gain state recognition of an Opportunity Zone within the city.
Such a designation requires an area being in decline, suffering from disinvestment (businesses are leaving and buildings are being left vacant) and being in need of redevelopment and revitalization throughout the zone.
Officials with the Department of Community Affairs have said that the terms “slum and blight” when used to describe an Opportunity Zone are not pejoratives, but instead describe conditions necessary to gain tax credits over a 10-year period.
Local governments that undertake redevelopment and revitalization efforts in certain older commercial and industrial areas — Opportunity Zones — can qualify those areas for a maximum state job tax credit of $3,500 per job for every new or existing business that creates two or more full-time jobs.
The DDA’s involvement in forming an Opportunity Zone is similar to its collaboration with REFRESH Fort Oglethorpe to revitalize a section of LaFayette Road/U.S. Highway 27 that stretches from Battlefield Parkway to the entrance of the Chickamauga Battlefield Park. REFRESH is part of a state initiative to restore vibrancy to Georgia’s smaller communities and downtown districts.
Grants from the Department of Community Affairs provided the necessary “seed money” to prepare a formal master plan for redevelopment of Fort Oglethorpe’s original business district. The plan, which will be presented to the City Council for approval Dec. 10, proposes reconfigured traffic lanes, improved streetscaping and making travel safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The REFRESH and Opportunity Zone plans are parts of separate but complementary programs that have a shared goal of restoring the oldest section of Fort Oglethorpe as a viable commercial district.
DDA board member Harold Silcox said that as a citizen and a former city council member he has been involved in two earlier plans to revitalize the district that never gained traction with the public or local business community.
“This is better than anything we’ve ever had before,” he said.