In June, 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 plan identifies four key issues for Thomson’s downtown: the “look” of buildings, the need for an active downtown and to provide recreation opportunities, connectivity, and greening and beautification.
Local stakeholders and city officials have already been hard at work implementing aspects of the plan for several months, long before the plan was officially completed. Notable items already completed include the repainting of crosswalks downtown, public student art displays in vacant storefront windows, a Blind Willie McTell mural, hanging outdoor lights on the Thomson Depot, and planting 45 trees along sidewalks and parking lots. The Archway Partnership will continuing facilitating plan implementation initiatives and promoting the plan in the community.
Danny Bivins, senior public service associate at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, has been the lead on the project for over a year. “I am very fond of this plan and the people of Thomson. It has been a pleasure to work here,” said Bivins. “The RSVP delivers a long-term vision, but nothing in this plan is pie in the sky. Everything is achievable. Especially knowing the people of Thomson.”
The Steering Committee for RSVP was composed of a range of Thomsonians, including elected officials, business owners and residents.
“We had a great and diverse Steering Committee with a lot of positive energy and let’s get to it attitude,” added Bivins. “Many of the actions items are already in progress and the plan is just now being finalized. The only thing slowing down implementation is the coronavirus.”
Bivins also reserved some praise specifically for Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry. “Having a Mayor not only on the Steering Committee, but so engaged, energized, and leading implementation by example is fantastic. For a downtown to be successful it must be the heart and soul of the whole community. Working in Thomson is invigorating. Their plans don’t sit on a shelf. They take their plans, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.”
For some members of the Steering Committee, it was a new experience. “The experience of working with the highly educated Archway and Vinson professionals has been refreshing and fascinating. I have learned from their expertise,” 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!”
Hall is looking forward to the full presentation to the public of the plan later this year. “I feel confident the citizens of Thomson will love the RSVP Master Plan Design when it is presented to the public later this year, and I have no doubt it will be viewed as an impressive piece of work that is actually an achievable plan for the improvement of downtown Thomson.”
Don Powers, president and CEO of Forward McDuffie, noted the urgent need for the plan amid some of the difficulties for rural Georgia. “Rural downtowns in many areas of Georgia are “on the ropes”, so to speak. Thomson is no different and needs a revival of sorts. It begins with an intentional strategy, one with detailed action steps and developed by professionals, listening to local citizens,” said Powers. “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!”