Harper: The decline of the North Jefferson Street business area actually began some time prior to the closing of Pilgrims Pride, although the closure sped up the process. The revitalization of this area will require vision, long-range planning and significant capital investment.
To be successful, any revitalization effort must also target the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The mayor and council should seek the assistance and advice of successful developers who have built in other areas of town for fresh ideas.
In the past, the city has given incentives to a number of industrial developers. These developers usually represent large industrial projects. Why can’t we give incentives to small business also? Small business employs the majority of our nation’s workforce, yet seldom receives any assistance.
The city should encourage and assist in any way developers who are interested in revitalization of areas such as North Jefferson. The city must be willing to upgrade infrastructure, help clean up neighborhoods and make the area as appealing as possible to investors.
Revitalization of any area must be a partnership between the city and the private sector.
If elected, I will ask the mayor to appoint a committee of city managers, businesses and neighborhood leaders to investigate and research methods used by other cities.
NC: The Athens Historic Preservation Commission is tasked to ensure the integrity of the city’s historic districts remains intact. However, do you feel the commission could better serve the city by increasing its scope to include all historic structures within the city limits?
Harper: I do not feel the authority of the Historical Preservation Commission should be expanded because of past problems with property owners. Public input from all interested parties should be considered, but final decisions should be made by the property owners.