Jim and James Draper of JEC Development received the Golden Hammer Award at the 2018 Downtown Monroe Awards Ceremony. Photo credit: Sharon Swanepoel
The Gold Hammer Award, which celebrates “thoughtful and creative renovations to downtown buildings that enhance the historic character and aesthetic appeal of the district.” The award this year went to JEC Development for the renovation of the Monroe Mercantile Building.
Recently I read a post on face book by a person who stated that she loved the tree canopy that lined many of the streets in her home town of Monroe, GA and it was a delight whenever she visited to drive through our town. The same day I received mail from the Arbor Day Foundation that reminded of the benefits these lovely old trees provide. Among them were that trees save energy, by cooling the environment, they also help prevent air pollution by absorbing carbon emissions, and cared for they add beauty to our communities
As a lovely small town that values preserving its history and natural resources, how do we address the conflict that may occur between preserving these ancient trees and maintaining our infrastructure so that our citizens are not without needed utilities in the event of storms or other events.
So what is the solution? Many cities simply cut back trees in a manner that destroys their beauty and also makes them less stable. Other cities replace the overhead lines with underground utilities. Whether they can do this or not is often determined by cost and the willingness of the citizens.
The importance of preserving good healthy trees within our historic and existing neighborhoods within our city limits can not be over emphasized. The shade an old tree brings a house, sidewalk, or street cannot be recreated, bought, or manufactured and in my opinion an old trees shade doesn't get the credit it deserves.
As the city of Monroe grows and changes we should remember the true value of our trees and find the proper balance between maintaining our electrical wires and maintaining our trees.
co written by James Draper III and Marianne Daughety
You may be asking yourself, "what is a stroad?" A stroad my friend is a hybrid creation of a road and a street. A road is what has always been throughout history a path of travel for commodities and peoples. Take for instance the railroad it was and is a path for travel. Roads are made and designed to get people and things from point A to point B, safely and efficiently. Streets, on the other hand, are something totally different. Streets are and have always been platforms to create and capture wealth. Streets are the platform in which our societies have been building, creating, and capturing wealth since the beginning of time and not just fiducial wealth but community, business, and residential wealth; wealth in every area of life.
You see a street is different from a road and a road is different from a street. We in Georgia and here in Walton County have combine the two into one very dangerous creation and that is the "Stroad". The stroad tries to take the best of both worlds and put them together. The GADOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) builds a road in order to connect one place to the next. Their main objective is to get the automobile from point A to point B, Safely and cost effectively. This is great, our towns and cities are better connected now than ever in history. Way to Go!
The problem arises when raw land on the sides of roads and highways begin to be bought by land groups and rezoned to commercial and then placed on the market for the development of shopping malls and restaurants capturing and building wealth on the road. Remember the difference between a road and a street? A road is meant to get the automobile from point A to B quickly (minimal turning lanes, distractions, and hazards. A street is a platform to create wealth ( buildings, business, homes, community, and so on). The stroad is birthed when a road tries to become a street it also works visa versa when a street tries to become a road. Below is a picture of a street with on street parking.
Dense mixed use zoned development on well built streets within Walton county's towns will create long lasting wealth for generations to come . The new gas station, strip mall, or restaurant built on Walton counties roads may bring an initial spike in the property appraised tax value but doesn't hold its value as long as properly developed buildings on streets. Currently our Walton county land-use map shows the majority of raw land with road frontage on highway 78 and highway 11 as commercial property. This is not good for the road, land conservation, or for the long term interest of our communities. A prime example of a Stroad is in the picture below. A road trying to be a street. This is Spring street in Monroe, Ga and it is a stroad.
Good street design is a key element of smart development. Streets are considered to be the place where land use and transportation connect. in the past, the major concern of engineers who designed streets were speed and capaticy to move as many cars as fast as possible. Today, more consideration is given to other concerns such as the livability of neighborhoods in the areas that the streets pass through, and the importance of serving differant street users, including non moterized useres such as pedestrians, bicyclists, rollerbladers, and skateboarders . In his pioneering publicaton Livable Streets, Don Appleyard called streets the 'most important part of our urban environment." Appleyard goes on to say, "we should raise our sights for the moment. What could a residental street a street on which our childeren are brought up, adults live, and old people spend their last days- what could such a street be like?
Narrow streets make moterists drive slower and are thus safer for all street users. however, the typical street standards produced by federal and state governments require very wide streets for new subdivisions. Instead of following outdated federal and state standards, a town can require street widths that are consistent with the needs and desires of its residents. Rick Chellman, a New Hampshire traffic engineer argues that " some of the best loved streets and those with the highest values (both for economics and livability) are streets that do not conform to current subdivision criteria." An irregular cul-de-sac street pattern has very long blocks and lots of dead ends. This makes it difficult to get where you want to go, with so few route options, all of the traffic is forced onto a few arterial roads that can get really congested, having only a few arterial roads means they must be designed very wide and support heavy traffic. This makes them very unpleasant for pedestrians, bicyclists , and motorists alike. A pattern of streets with lots of connections and short blocks, makes it easier to move around - people have more than one way to reach a destination. Street design that considers this concept can help reduce traffic congestion, it can also make it possible for children to walk or bike to school. Connected street networks provide multiple ways for all vehicles to access homes,shops,and other destinations. In addition, a street system encourages slow, cautious driving.
Take a look at this video from strongtowns.org explaining the problems and solutions for "Stroads". Thanks for Reading and keep up the good work.
photo by cheapoair.com
Millennials are migrating to urban centers; they want a community made of something real and sustainable. They want to walk to work and then at lunch walk to their favorite lunch spot, where they know the workers and the patrons by first name basis. A community that is built around the pedestrian rather than the automobile. One where the streets are used for walking, riding a bicycle, and yes for the automobile. Millennials need a sense of purpose a feeling that they belong. They want a place where they will be heard; they also want to be helpful and be a productive part of their community. You might be thinking: "why invest in millennials? Millennials don't have any money, they have student loans and bad credit so why should Walton County care about building places that accommodate Millennials; the numbers just won't work". Well, its not just millennials, Baby boomers are retiring and they are in the same exact boat as millennials. Two generations in need of the same, exact few things: purpose, to be heard, and a place that cultivates a community they can enjoy. Now have I got your attention?
project photo from TSW-DESIGN.COM
There is a humongous market for mixed use development with a center that is built around the citizens as pedestrians not as motor vehicle operators. This new approach is really not new but old it is the way the cities have been built for 1,000s of years. Only since the 50's has the west been developing shopping malls and subdivisions in a "sprawl" like manner with no boundaries. . These types of developments are all we, as a society, have known but when compared to older wiser developments we see how disconnected they are. Current zoning separates and divides the most natural of human desires and needs, by putting miles of asphalt and stoplights between residential (our homes) and commercial (where we live and collaborate ).
It started as an experiment after war world II when all the GI's came home from war and had been given a credit called the GI Bill, allowing for every soldier to get a mortgage on a home. Since then our economy has been a construction economy rather than industry and no one has ever been able to keep up with demand. Department of transportation can never build enough roads on tax payers dollars. Our builders and contractors couldn't keep up with all the future new construction that had been financed by banks and land groups and developers just keep buying all the cheap farm land in the suburbs, waiting for the economy to catch up.
I think, Bill Tunnell Founding Principle at TSW-DESIGN says it best like this: clear boundaries between “town” and “country”, in order to promote and preserve the best of both, has been practiced successfully for centuries in western Europe and other parts of the world. It accounts for the appeal of those places to residents and tourists alike. Such boundaries have been hard to achieve in the U.S., however, because of zoning laws that place few restrictions on the development rights of private property owners. It is possible, however, to manage growth so that “suburban sprawl” is contained and both town and country are enhanced as places for people for live and visit. Places like Walton County, where the pattern of strong, walkable towns surrounded by farmland has not yet been badly eroded, have a great opportunity to adopt policies that will reinforce that pattern and attract future growth that is sustainable. These are the places, near major urban centers like Atlanta, that will attract both older and younger residents seeking a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Bill Tunnell
photo by How stuff works
Its time we come full circle and realize that focusing new development in denser Livable Center Initiative (or LCI planned) areas is not a new idea but it is actually old. Focusing Walton counties growth within our existing incorporated towns boundaries fosters a healthier community, happier citizen, and a cleaner environment. Imagine if we could grow our towns commercially,residentially, and industrially while preserving our AG land and wildlife habitat from being sold and chopped up into 1 acre lots and developed .Imagine our County where new development is focused in Good Hope, Jersey Monroe, Social Circle, Loganvville where livability is the center initiative. With any new development outside of an existing town in Walton County on raw undeveloped land be mandated to have an LCI; A plan with mixed use zoning to improve the quality of life for citizens of Walton County.
North Broad Streets newest project. North Broad is truly the place to live, work, shop, eat, play! Between all the local shops, the beautiful trees and flowers, and all the familiar faces you see when enjoying North Broad; it's hard to think that there could be more.
Well, there's more! We are currently planning North Broads newest addition. This is the inside of our 15,000 sq ft building right between Avalon salon and Sailors studio. This is truly a beautiful piece of history and we are bringing it back to life.
This is a picture of the main floor looking towards the front doors.
Above is a picture of the back brick wall with its large window openings bringing beautiful rays of light in all day.
below is a picture of the staircase to the 3rd floor mezzanine.
below is a picture of the third floor mezzanine to the right and a staircase down to the lower level to the left.
below is a picture of the back entrance of the building from Wayne street. This building is being renovated currently and these are pictures of the current stage of remodel. The window openings had plywood over them, this picture shows the opened windows and window sashes, some windows are complete and some still have work.
Get ready for more! Have your retail shop here! Be right in the middle of the action. North Broads foot traffic is incredible, with 100s of shoppers everyday of the week.
There is still a lot to do and we hope to have it ready by September. Thanks for taking time to read about the progress:)
This is Scoops https://www.scoopsmonroe.com/ (Monroe's ice cream and candy shop). It is exciting to see this private courtyard created for Scoops patrons. This is the highest and best use for this corner no doubt! If you can remember a couple months ago this was 4 to 5 empty car parking spots. Parking spots!?! Really? This beautiful courtyard used to be ugly cement parking spot? Now, most evenings and afternoons this space is filled with people, kids to grandparents, sitting, talking, laughing and enjoying a scoop and enjoying each other. This is a great example of what happens when the community turns parking lots into places for people.
This shop is on the corner of North Broad St. and Highland Avenue. It has recently seen an amazing transformation and has become a beautiful example of placemaking vs. parking, right here in Downtown Monroe. There is a long standing delima between placemaking vs parking and far to often parking has had dominance keeping developers preoccupied with parking requirements. Are parking lots more important or are people more important? Which one is more valuable? A vehicle or a person? People are more important and more valuable right?
Over the last few months people have begun to park on Highland Avenue, on the street, without dotting an eye. Highland Avenue has historically been viewed and used as, simply a connector street. Now, with Scoops opening and adding more patrons to town, we have seen first hand just how practical and beneficial on street parking can be. Drivers drive slower with more caution. People feel safer walking the sidewalks with the parked cars acting as a buffer between them and moving traffic. Now, naturally one can argue that drivers are driving slower with more caution because of Scoops opening . On-street parking is increasing the number of people that are walking passed certain commercial buildings that haven't been walked by in years, raising the value of those commercial shops on Highland Ave.
We as a community have seen first hand how place-making can be much more beneficial than parking lots. What other Parking lots could we turn into places that people can enjoy? What other streets are capable of handling more on street parking? Do you know of a street that would benefit from more on-street parking? Residential streets in town that have cars parked in the grass or in the yard... those cars should park on the street. Streets in Downtown that are capable of taking on a new job description by adding parking onto them, dispersing the parking load throughout the city.
Exciting things are happening within and around our Mill District here in Monroe, Ga. The Mill District has always played a major role in the community; it created jobs, housing, education, churches and much more back in its hay day. The district has seen its ups and downs in the past but has passed the test of time! Now, the Mill District is one of the most desired places to live, work, play east of Decatur. Movies at the Mill, Food Truck Friday's, Monroe Country Day school, all the shopping and our renovated cottages on Mill street and Radford st just to name a few of the highlights of the district! Monroe has truly got a gold mine! Come join the Gold Rush and be a vital part of our family oriented community.
Check out this historic, newly renovated cottage. It is available now. Right in the Middle of the 2 Mills
above: Front Door
above: Private Porch
The Summer is approaching and our shops are full of new arrivals! Peachy Keen has opened up shop and is attracting a lot of shoppers. The Farmers Market is opening this Saturday and Friday Night concerts are right around the corner. This is the perfect season for you to come and experience our downtown and close knit community.
Come and visit Downtown Monroe and stay in town at our Airbnb.com suite here in the Eulalia Building. Stay here for a night or for the whole week. Explore the old Cotton Mills that are full of hidden treasures, eat at our local restaurants, and meet the locals. Bring your bicycle and ride the neighborhoods and dream of all the stories that the old houses would tell if they could talk. You never know, Monroe might just capture your heart and convince you to become a local.
WE serve our community in many ways. Learn more about that on at the Comfort Ministries site.
James. Emily. Chad.