Writer: Margaret Blanchard
The city of Cornelia has a fresh vision for the future thanks to the creativity of Garrison Taylor, a UGA student who spent the summer as a Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellow at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
Taylor presented her designs to the community during a commission meeting at City Hall on Sept. 6.
Taylor, a graduate student in UGA’s College of Environment and Design, spent the 12-week fellowship working with community leaders to develop ideas and visual concepts to spur community development and growth. Supported by the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation, the program has created 23 plans for community downtowns since 2013.
Jessie Owensby, Cornelia’s community development director, met regularly with Taylor to provide feedback and direction.
“It was a delight working with Garrison—she really rose to challenge and provided workable ideas that I think the community can get behind. I love what she’s done!” she said.
The project had three primary goals: to create design concepts for potential infill developments, to develop a site plan for an event space at the former Cornelia Motors site, and to create design concepts to improve downtown parking and the visitor experience through expanded streetscaping.
Taylor came up with options for screening dumpsters and enlivening streetscapes by incorporating whimsical apples in several designs—a nod to the city being “The Home of the Big Red Apple,” a downtown monument commemorating the region’s agricultural roots.
“It was great getting to know the community and their specific needs,” she said. “Working on several projects meant I had to design with an eye on cohesiveness and practicality.”
For Owensby, the plan is a much-needed resource that hopefully will help drive area growth.
“This is a great tool for showing people what’s possible here. I’m so excited to start working on turning some of these ideas into reality,” she said.
The fellowship is over, but Taylor will remain at the Institute of Government as a graduate assistant. She credits the experience with fine-tuning her technical skills and expanding her horizons.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how amazing Georgia’s small towns are!” says the Atlanta native. “Cornelia is such a cool town that it would have taken me years to visit otherwise, and I will continue to visit.”