The council last year approved planting trees along the previously sun-baked stretch of Church Street just north of the Square, and also added wider sidewalks and lighting improvements. The $220,000 project funded with 2011 SPLOST dollars has been a big hit with just about everybody.
The council now plans to install more planters on Church northward to Polk Street and also is looking at similar streetscape improvements on other streets downtown that were left out when the city embarked on its big beautification push in the mid-1980s.
The council is considering trees and related improvements on the first blocks or so of Mill Street and Whitlock Avenue west of the Square and Powder Springs Street and Atlanta Street south of the Square. (Mayor Steve Tumlin and Vision 20/20 Committee Chairman Kee Carlisle in a related matter are also proposing to make the streets that circle the Square one-way, and to widen the sidewalks on the blocks that directly face the Square. That might involve reducing the number of traffic lanes, at least on the north side of the Square, and those proposals are apt to be much more controversial.)
All four of the streets under consideration for tree planters (Mill, Whitlock, Atlanta and Powder Springs) have significant foot traffic, especially the first three. Cost might be a consideration, however, as well as the narrowness of the sidewalks along Atlanta and Powder Springs.
As has been obvious since the planting of the initial trees on the sidewalks facing the Square three decades ago, and since the planting of the saplings on Church Street this year, their addition has been a huge benefit to downtown. Not only do they give the area a more inviting look, they also provide deep shade on scorching Georgia summer days and help give downtown a pedestrian-friendly feel.
As Councilman Johnny Sinclair said last week, City Hall is going to have to find a way to eventually do all of the streetscapes because the changes along Church Street have proven so popular.
We would echo that sentiment and add only, “Why has it taken so long already?”