BoomTown bringing opportunities to downtown Jefferson

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The corner where Jefferson Center is currently located would be cleared to make way for a new three-story structure which brings to mind the historic look of the Harrison Hotel which was on the site for 115+ years.

By KATIE JUSTICE, kjustice@clickthepaper.com

The look of downtown Jefferson is on the brink of change thanks to proposed improvements to two properties.

A group consisting of members from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission and representatives from the city have worked on the BoomTown proposals for downtown Jefferson.

BoomTown stands for Building Opportunities on Main Street, and Main Street Jefferson executive director Beth Laughinghouse told the Jefferson City Council during Monday’s work session that a recent gathering resulted in a feasibility analysis on four potential properties including the Pendergrass House and some Gordon Street property that could find a future as greenspace.

Two of the projects have owners who seem eager to pursue the potential of their properties. A property on Public Square that currently houses RE/MAX Towne Square Lee Street and a site where the Harrison Hotel once stood are the targets of the projects.

The aim of the proposals is to enable better utilization of the spaces while maintaining the historical appeal of the properties.

The structure on the Lee Street property will be demolished and be rebuilt to resemble the Harrison Hotel.

According to Laughinghouse, the Harrison Hotel was purchased by Morris Bryant Sr., for a bed and breakfast, however, termite damage prompted the structure’s demolition. A historic photograph from the 1940s is serving as the inspiration for a new building design.

The proposed building would serve multiple purposes with nine to 12 residential spaces on the third floor and areas for offices, retail and service spaces and restaurants on the lower two floors.

The south Public Square property will be rehabilitated in effort to restore it to a more historic form, and its timeline could move more quickly, says Laughinghouse. It, too, will have residential areas on the top floor and office, service or retail areas below. The renovations will highlight its earlier appearance of a historical storefront with no stucco and traditional window appearance on the front of the building.

RE/MAX Towne Square and the law firm of Morris Hardwick Schneider are located in Gina Thrailkill’s Public Square building that may soon be transformed into this. The former balcony would be restored and the access to city-owned parking would be convenient for those residing in the four planned upstairs lofts.

“I’m looking forward to do it,” said Public Square property owner Gina Thrailkill, of making the proposed renovations. “I think it’s going to help the downtown area, and I hope it will bring more businesses and jobs to the area.”

The cost of rehabilitating the Public Square property is estimated to be about $338,000. John VanBrunt IV, field representative of the DCA for economic and community development in the finance division, proposes that funding would be provided through a series of loans, owner equity and state and federal historical tax credits.

The cost for rebuilding the Lee Street property will be just over $3 million. It will be funded through a loan from a local bank, the Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund and Georgia Cities Foundation and owner equity.

Laughinghouse said the University of Georgia Design Services was able to take a photograph taken as the 115-year-old hotel was being demolished and provide an exterior look which would provide a historic look to complement the nearby Jackson County Historic Courthouse. She said this project could be a longer-term endeavor.

“I’m thankful they were able to come out and do this presentation for us. Hopefully, it will help get things started,” said Thrailkill.

See the complete story and more renderings in the Nov. 15 print edition of The Paper of Jackson County.