Writer: Baker Owens
This summer, the City of Thomson finalized its downtown Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning (RSVP) process with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, in collaboration with the Archway Partnership.
Local stakeholders have begun promoting the plan to the community and are seeking implementation assistance from community members in variety of ways.
The Thomson RSVP plan identifies four key issues to enhance the city’s downtown: improve the “look” of buildings, encourage family-friendly activities, install traffic-calming features that support better connectivity and use landscaping and plantings to add visual appeal. See the full plan here.
City officials and community stakeholders began implementing parts of the plan even before it was completed. Tasks already accomplished include repainting downtown crosswalks to enhance connectivity; installing student art displays in vacant storefront windows; hanging outdoor lights on the Thomson Depot; and planting dozens of trees to soften the look of sidewalks and parking lots.
The Archway Partnership will continue facilitating plan implementation initiatives and promoting the plan in the community.
The RSVP process was developed by the Institute of Government in partnership with the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Cities Foundation and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to help cities create workable revitalization strategies. Through public input and stakeholder engagement, the RSVP process helps communities identify a vision for their downtown and establish action steps and work programs to achieve it.
Danny Bivins, a senior public service associate with the Institute of Government, has been the lead on the Thomson RSVP for over a year. “This RSVP delivers a longterm vision, but nothing in this plan is pie in the sky. Everything is achievable, especially knowing the people of Thomson,” Bivins said.
The Thomson RSVP steering committee included a diverse group of residents, business owners and elected officials, including Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry.
“Having a mayor not only on the steering committee but so engaged, energized and leading implementation by example is fantastic,” Bivins said.
Other steering committee members found the process a rewarding start to an ongoing revival.
“The experience of working with the highly educated Archway and Vinson professionals has been refreshing and fascinating,” said Patsy Hall. “In May 2020, complying with the COVID-19 work-from-home guidelines, I also participated in my very first Zoom meeting. This was fun, educational and a memorable first experience, thanks to Archway and Vinson!”
Don Powers, president and CEO of the community development group Forward McDuffie, said RSVP plans help meet an urgent need in cities across the state.
“Rural downtowns in many areas of Georgia are ‘on the ropes,’ so to speak. Thomson is no different and needs a revival of sorts,” Powers said. “It begins with an intentional strategy, one with detailed action steps, developed by professionals listening to local citizens. That describes the deliverables any community gets from the RSVP team, led by Danny Bivins. We couldn’t be more impressed than we are with this whole process. Now the real work begins!”
Shown above: At top, community stakeholders and elected officials in Thomson are implementing elements of a Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning (RSVP) strategy they developed in coordination with the Institute of Government and the UGA Archway Partnership. Above right, details like restoring a vintage advertisement above a pocket park are part of the community’s RSVP vision for reinvigorating downtown Thomson.