Upon the opening of downtown’s new Marta station in 1979, Decatur began experiencing development pressure decidedly out of character with what many residents envisioned for the city’s future. In response came the Downtown Redevelopment Task Force, which included a broad representation of the Decatur community and began work in 1980. Over the course of two years, the Task Force held a series of public input sessions that encouraged Decatur residents to work together, establish a common vision, and complete the Town Center Plan to guide development and redevelopment in the decades ahead.
Their intent was unmistakable:
The overall goal is to achieve the image of a traditional and intimate small-town center while encouraging development of modern high-rise offices, a new hotel, new residential areas, and new commercial facilities. The underlying theme throughout is to maintain the tradition of humanity and warmth that has been Decatur’s from the beginning of the town in the 1820s, the kind of small town in which people can walk downtown to shop and do business in an atmosphere of intimacy and friendliness, while at the same time providing for economic revitalization and expansion.
The plan included 10 goals and 10 policies which, taken generally, can be organized according to four key themes:
- Maintain a Strong Sense of Place
- Address Transportation and Parking Issues
- Focus on Design
- Encourage Quality Growth and Development
One key aspect of the town center process was the inclusion of a developer as part of the planning team. As a result, the plan included a real-life development model on which construction began within two years of the plan’s adoption.