Downtown Hogansville awarded Rural Zone Designation by Georgia Department of Community Affairs
Approximately 92% of Georgia's land is non metro or rural, and within our state are 391 small towns of 10,000 people or less. As a statewide organization focused on sustainable growth, Georgia Conservancy aims to impact development and redevelopment in those places that ensures sustainability is not just an urban condition, but one that can easily be incorporated by our small towns. In fact, our historical downtowns, mill villages, and Main Streets are the original walkable communities, with environmental and economic benefits that major urban greenfield developments spend millions of dollars to reproduce.
Yes, Georgia needs Atlanta to continue to run, but at the heart of our state remains our small towns, many of which bolster our robust agricultural, tourism and outdoor recreation economies.
However, the qualities that make many of Georgia’s small and rural towns so attractive to residents and visitors are not guaranteed to continue. These qualities - farmland, greenspace, historic structures, unique stories - must first be recognized, conserved, strengthened and, often times, marketed so that these communities maintain or build the economies necessary to exist in the modern world.
Since 1995, the Georgia Conservancy’s Sustainable Growth program has provided planning and design assistance to communities across Georgia, of which many are small and rural - places such as Sandfly, Pin Point, Moreland and Hogansville - all in an effort to ensure that these communities remain both viable in the future and retain their attractive small town or rural characters. By focusing on quality and sustainable community development and land use, in addition to the utilization of existing qualities - whether they be in the built or natural environment - the Georgia Conservancy believes even Georgia’s smallest towns can have the chance to thrive and compete.
To bolster these sustainable planning efforts and to make the first steps towards revitalization and renewed growth more attractive to our smaller historic communities, in 2017, the Georgia Conservancy advocated at the State Capitol for the passage of legislation that would allow for the designation of eligible downtowns across Georgia as Rural Zones. Approved by both legislative chambers and Governor Nathan Deal, the Rural Downtown Revitalization Act (House Bill 73) encourages small, rural and historic downtowns across Georgia to invest in their built environment - all in effort to create jobs and stimulate economic activity. The Georgia Conservancy was a strong proponent of the legislation, which was sponsored by Rep. Penny Houston and Ways & Means Chairman Jay Powell, among others.
On October 10, Hogansville’s historic downtown corridor was among eight communities in Georgia to receive the Rural Zone designations by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. A Rural Zone designation will provide the economic incentive for sustainable growth in Hogansville’s downtown, as eligible business owners within the corridor will benefit from three different tax credits: a jobs credit, an investment credit and a rehabilitation credit.
How did Hogansville, a town of 3,200 in Troup County, position itself to stand out among the many applicants?
In 2017, the Georgia Conservancy’s Blueprints for Successful Communities, along with partners at Canvas Planning and Village Green Consulting, began working with community leaders and residents in Hogansville to develop an updated Downtown Master Plan - a roadmap for future sustainable development and rehabilitation in the historic core. The Downtown Master Plan inventoried existing community assets (historic structures, city parks, festivals, etc.), took into account public feedback and desires, comprehensively analyzed socioeconomic, demographic and market data, made zoning recommendations, and developed real-world solutions and plans for the community to enhance its downtown.
Through pursuing and then adopting the Downtown Master Plan, as well as continuing to promote the qualities that make Hogansville such an attractive place to live and visit, the town’s Downtown Development Authority, city council and city staff took the lead and was successful in advocating for its Rural Zone designation.
The Georgia Conservancy is excited about the opportunities that the Rural Zone designation can provide for Hogansville’s downtown, as well as the chance that we have to help other communities across Georgia take advantage of the benefits of this powerful economic incentive. Additionally, we are looking forward to continuing our work with the leadership and residents of Hogansville on a second Blueprints project this Fall, one which looks at Hogansville’s greater community assets and examines the corridors that connect locations throughout the town.
We recognize that sustainability is not just important for our most robust and resource consuming towns and cities. The implementation of sustainable practices for land use, historic restoration, town planning and economic development can benefit even the smallest of Georgia’s communities. Hogansville, among other locations in our state, are truly setting an example of a sustainable way forward for small towns, both here and beyond.
To learn more about our Hogansville Blueprints project, please contact Georgia Conservancy Urban Design Lead Johanna McCrehan at firstname.lastname@example.org