Hundreds of Ideas Offered to Improve Athens

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Hundreds of Athens residents have responded to a survey offering their ideas for how to improve the city of over the next 20 years. The survey, which closed on Wednesday, was promoted by the Athens City Planning Committee as part of the effort to finalize a comprehensive plan by the end of 2018.

Over 600 suggestions, covering 17 areas, were offered by respondents.

Those areas covered by the survey included:

  • Economic Development (65)
  • Transportation/Accessibility (46)
  • Bike/Pedestrian (48)
  • Environment/Sustainability (58)
  • Design/Art/History (32)
  • Character/Culture (28)
  • Housing/Neighborhoods (59)
  • Infrastructure (29)
  • Development (42)
  • Town/Gown (21)
  • Sense of Place (25)
  • Recreation/Wellness (22)
  • Inclusion/Social Justice (31)
  • Aesthetics (39)
  • Technology (12)
  • Food (26)
  • Miscellaneous (30)

A main area of concern provided by those responding was that local businesses might be replaced by national chains. While most agreed with modernizing the city, they were equally opposed to losing the charm that comes with local businesses operating in the city limits.

Brenen’s Coffee Café located on Court Street

Josh Thomas and his wife have owned Brenen’s Coffee Cafe’ on Court St. for 18 years. His, and other locally-owned coffee shops, face just such a concern with the recent announcement that national franchise Starbucks will be opening nearby.

Still, Thomas said he is not worried.

“As a local business owner you can’t act like chains don’t exist,” he said. “It’s 2018 – businesses are going to come.”

Brenen’s is the oldest coffee shop in Athens, opening in 1991. Part of the benefit of owning a local business is giving back to the economy.  As an example, Thomas said he hires university and local high school students.

City planner Paul Logue said the comprehensive plan provides the community with an opportunity to help develop the city. Logue said the planning office is taking all of the feedback from the survey into consideration.

“When you’re doing a comprehensive plan it is about trying to get a consensus on key issues,” he said. “We want to get as much input as possible.”

When final, the comprehensive plan will remain in effect until 2040.