“We are opening up a big ol’ can of worms.”
Patterson Councilman David Smith offered that assessment about a looming issue with the city’s downtown revitalization project.
The Patterson City Council met in a called meeting last Thursday afternoon to discuss recent improvements a local business owner has made to her downtown shop — improvements that might, however, scuttle city efforts to secure historic preservation grants to revitalize the old downtown business block.
The council agreed to instruct City Attorney Adam Ferrell to contact business owner Bridgett Greene notifying her of city ordinances regarding historical preservation.
Contacted Monday about the situation, the Greenes declined comment.
Greene recently purchased the West Railroad Avenue building that once housed Eleanor’s Beauty Shop.
The multi-shade brick exterior of the building was in poor repair and was showing the age of the building, which, according to tax records, was built in 1910.
Greene had a cypress facade installed over the front of the building in recent weeks.
According to Mayor Dedi Thomas, that is a major problem.
Thomas cites efforts by Patterson’s Historic Preservation Commission to secure grant funding to make improvements downtown. Requirements for the grant funding prohibit any alteration to the original architecture of the buildings in the downtown area.
“We have to preserve the old brick, the old look of the buildings,” said Thomas. “We have to do that to be eligible for any grant funding.”
Thomas reported the grants have strict guidelines and requirements to eligibility that must be met.
Thomas said he had talked with the Greenes about the situation, but they did not seem inclined to make any changes to their recently completed renovations.
“I think we should just not touch this issue, forgive it and move on,” said Councilman David Smith. “The improvements (the Greenes) have made to the building already make it look 100 percent better down there.”
Thomas disagreed, arguing the changes put the whole downtown renovation/revitalization project in jeopardy.
Smith was still not convinced.
“The Greenes are already there and already operating a business. People ask me all the time why we are spending all this time and money trying to revitalize downtown. The Greenes are already there conducting business and now we are going to go and tell them they can’t make improvements to their own building. That doesn’t make sense.”
In response to a question by City Councilwoman Joan Teglas-Duplessis, Thomas said the Greenes were aware of the historical preservation requirements when they bought the building.
The Historic Preservation and Revitalization Efforts have been going on for almost a decade in the old downtown area just off Georgia Highway 32.
In the 1940s, 1950s and earlier, Patterson’s downtown featured a bank, rail depot, grocery stores, drug store and more and was the heart of the community.
All that changed when U.S. Highway 84 was widened to four lanes. Businesses moved to the “new area” of Patterson.
During the latest push for revitalization of the downtown area over the last three years, design plans have been drawn up. Those plans call for a restaurant with a patio area, other “unnamed business prospects” and a pocket park located inside the shell of one of the older buildings.