|Just because the America's Best Communities competition is over, that does not mean that the Blue Mile Project is finished. Far from it! The ABC Competition was mainly a blast of energy to help us gain momentum.
So what's next on the Blue Mile Project? Well, Habitat Bulloch is in the process of building a house on Institute Street for Theresa Reed. We are in the early planning stages of a house building project on College Lane for Mashika Reed. (Mashika and Theresa are not related.) A partnership between the Bulloch County Home Builders Association, the DSDA and Queensboro Bank just completed one
"Homes for Heroes House" on the corner of West Inman Street and South Walnut. Another" Homes for Heroes House" is under construction, and two more are being planned. Land clearing should begin on a new dog park off East Cherry Street in a month or two.
Bulloch County and the Georgia Department of Transportation have budgeted roadway improvements to the Blue Mile (South Main Street) itself. That work must go through a planning and permitting process before construction can begin. Some of the beautification projects envisioned for the Blue Mile are also in the works, but they must wait until the work on the roadway, underground drainage pipes, cables and the like is completed.
The City of Statesboro established a TAD (Tax Allocation District) centered around the Blue Mile which will help fund its portion of the Blue Mile Project. The tax on the increased property values arising from property improvements will be recycled back into the district for making infrastructure improvements. For example when Habitat Bulloch completes Theresa's home, most of Theresa's city property taxes will go towards making infrastructure improvements around downtown simply because the house will be worth so much more than the land it sits on was worth without the house. Right now both the County and the Bulloch County School Board are considering joining TAD. If they do, the City and County will be able to borrow against the projected income from the twenty year TAD for infrastructure improvements in the near future.
An artist is currently working on the Blind Willie McTell statue. The Blue Mile Foundation is working out the details on how to disperse matching grants to incentivize investments and property improvements along the Blue Mile.
Georgia Southern University, The Blue Mile Committee, the DSDA and area businesses are partnering in various promotional activities to draw Georgia Southern Students downtown to patronize Blue Mile and other downtown businesses. The Blue Mile Housing Committee is partnering with area banks to put together a financial literacy program for people living in neighborhoods along the Blue Mile. The goal is to help low income families, living on and around the Blue Mile to manage their money in such a way that they can eventually qualify for home improvement loans or qualify to purchase a home through Habitat Bulloch's program.
As you can see the Blue Mile Project was not primarily about winning a contest. It's a long term, multifaceted effort to transform the Blue Mile business district and adjacent neighborhoods into a prosperous part of the City and County. The big picture is that if the downtown core of Statesboro becomes healthier and more prosperous, that will bring industry and other investments to Bulloch County as a whole which will benefit everybody. If one were to tie the life expectancy of the Blue Mile Project to one of its key financial engines, namely the TAD, we are at the end of Year Two of a twenty year process.