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What do vacant downtown buildings mean for Jasper?

“Slowly but surely, one business at a time, we can grow it into a thriving downtown,” says local realtor


    A corner store at the south end of Jasper’s Main Street, former location of Main Street Fitness,

has been sitting empty for over a year now.   

     Since massive renovations in 1998 that sent unsightly utility lines underground and saw the installation of new sidewalks, trees and a top-dressing of fresh pavement, Jasper’s streetscape has remained pretty much the same; but the tapestry of businesses that line those streets has changed dramatically, with some familiar businesses going under or moving out of downtown, leaving several buildings vacant and in need of repair.


    In late June “For Sale” signs went up across two prominent downtown buildings owned by local defense attorney George Weaver. The building at 61 North Main Street (which most recently housed the restaurant 61 Main before it relocated to the other end of downtown) is now on the market. Also the building at 57 South Main Street, (formerly Main Street Fitness) is for sale after sitting empty for several years.
    City officials say there would be a tremendous benefit to all of downtown if these buildings were back in action, as well as the former NAPA building on the corner of Main Street and Church Street, currently owned by Community Bank of Pickens County.
    All three of these buildings are similarly valued, according to Pickens County tax records which list the appraised values as $225,215 (61 Main); $227,848 (57 Main) and $231,384 (2 North Main).
    “If I had a choice anywhere in Jasper to put a business, I swear I’d still pick Main Street,” said Mayor John Weaver.
    Weaver’s comments are hopeful considering the weekend closing of long-time downtown retailer Main Street Clothing. Despite also being a Main Street staple, Nan’s Hallmark, directly beside Main Street Clothing, closed a couple of years earlier, leaving a long stretch of empty storefronts.
    When asked what type of businesses would be best suited for downtown, Weaver said Main Street must cater to the needs of the courthouse and its employees and visitors.
    “We’re still feeling the effects of the county moving the administration building out of downtown,” Weaver said. “The walking traffic is what you want.
    The mayor said his plan to link neighboring subdivisions with downtown via a series of trails for bikes and golf carts could recharge downtown.
    “Main Street still has a lot to offer,” he said. “Over the next few years we intend to open trails up to downtown for biking and golf carts so a lot of these subdivisions will have a unique path to downtown.”
    The mayor said once renovations are complete on the courthouse and construction traffic is out of the way, the city plans to host another Main Street Mania downtown featuring an evening of live music and entertainment.
    Weaver also pointed out that the building which formerly housed the Crust/Sidebar restaurants is  vacant.
    “Maybe someone will open that up once the courthouse is finished,” he said. “I’d love to see those restaurants open back up. I can’t wait to see it when there’s no parking left on Main Street.”
    Local realtor Joanna Kearns with Century 21, who has one listing for a downtown building, said she sees opportunity for Jasper’s revitalization.
    “Right now our downtown offers great opportunity for new businesses,” she said. “With the newly remodeled courthouse, the traffic volume and some very successful businesses already established, Jasper definitely has the potential to be a thriving downtown.”
    Kearns said the amount of available space you now see  downtown is a result of both the economic climate over the past few years and the mind set that businesses need to be on the highway.
    “I do think it’s going to have to be a joint effort of the people who live here and the businesses to come together and find that draw and support it to make it successful,” she said.
    Kearns said it doesn’t look good to have too many vacant spaces downtown but the opportunity is there for start-up businesses because rents are often cheaper on Main Street than along the highway.
    “Slowly but surely, one business at a time we can grow it into a thriving downtown,” she said.
    Economic Developer Gerry Nechvatal said he too believes in a downtown with unique and thriving retail shops and restaurants. Nechvatal said the key might be finding the right type of business with a unique appeal not found in large box stores.
    “If you look at other communities, other models, certainly when your downtown businesses leave and transition to other areas of commerce the trend in the downtown goes into interesting restaurants, interesting retail – something not found in chains on the interstate.”
    The problem now, he said, is lack of consumer confidence. “People are very cautious about their expenditures and the retail market is still fairly weak,” he said. “An individual looking to open a business faces a difficult decision.”
    The economic development expert said people interested in opening their own business must decide whether it’s a safe investment for their life savings.
    “There’s a lot of decisions and a lot of risk there, regardless if you are looking downtown or on the interstate,” he said.    
    Regardless, Nechvatal said the courthouse renovation has come out wonderfully and Jasper’s downtown is very attractive and can draw people in.
    “But I do think we need more establishments to bring more people into downtown,” he said.
    Nechvatal said he has worked with one individual who “entertained doing something in the old NAPA building but the cost of renovation on some of these buildings does make it difficult.”


+4 #1 edge770 2013-07-10 10:59
The mayor is somewhat correct, but county employees flock out of town at 4:59 if not before on Fridays. The lure should be cultural, and incubator businesses that support young entrepreneurs. As well as the leaf goers that take the road less traveled. Brew pubs, technology and a place or two take for promotions, anniversaries and other special occasions. Also the revamp of underground utilities need to spread east, with sidewalks to Roper Park, wifi access and one stop shops for licensing, utilities, financing so a bustling entrepreneur doesn't have to drive all over town. The courthouse is a lure, but it CANNOT be the only lure. I myself think the smell of good bbq on a crisp October weekends be a good lure intown. I myself have a grandscale idea but it will take resources and hunger. The hunger part I'm not seeing.
Wheres The Jobs
0 #2 Wheres The Jobs 2013-07-11 15:52
What do vacant downtown buildings mean for Jasper?

Duh!! I suppose it means everyone is tired of driving on the one-lane roads, spending twenty minutes to find a parking space, and then having to "pray" your way out of that parking space before someone hits the back of your car.

Simply put... all the jobs have left town and the city and county have made no efforts to get any real jobs (other than retail) to locate here.
+6 #3 Mundt 2013-07-12 07:53
If the Antique shops in and around town are not allowed to post any signs on 515 to draw folks down 53 then what makes you think any other businesses would have confindence to open in Downtown. I know I sure don't. Some one needs to think about a permenant sign directing folks off 515 to Historical Downtown Jasper. Take care of the busineses we have now and others will follow. I would love to see a Pub open in the NAPA building featuring local talent all around North Ga!
Bob Hayles
+5 #4 Bob Hayles 2013-07-12 08:43
Unlike all the metal buildings that have sprung up for businesses over the last 15-20 years (so0me now rusting eyesores), downtown buildings have a personality. Use that to make a destination spot, perhaps for locals, perhaps for visitors. There is no reason we can't make downtown the same kind of draw for visitors as downtown Blue Ridge...and we are a lot closer to Atlanta, where the visitors start from.

Something else that would help would be city leaders looking to the future, rather than looking to the past. Johnny Weaver knows the county admin move isn't what is killing downtown, he just wants something to beat on Rob Jones over. Weaver would put denigrating Jones ahead of what is good for Jasper every chance he gets.
+5 #5 Art 2013-07-13 18:44
We've been here 3 years now and we like Jasper,but there's nothing to do or to keep you interested in downtown.I would like to say this,we are over 50 an any weekend I'm not working,we are up in downtown Ellijay,Blue Ridge or Blairsville.I know we're not alone and unfortunately that's where we spend our hard earned money.
I agree with Mundt,we need more retail,a pub (Napa building).We need to get the Banks to work with potential people that are interested in opening businesses in these vacant buildings.But until then what you see is what you get.In the mean time I'll enjoy the downtowns of the above mentioned cities and that's where I spend my money.Let's go people Jasper needs someone who can think outside the box.
+3 #6 RMW 2013-07-16 06:14
Lots of good comments made. The facts, however, are quite visible to the eye and lesser so to the mind. The lack of appropriate zoning regulations has led to a mish-mash of distasteful looking buildings and signage. Buildings left vacant for years along with unkempt lots only add to the eyesores, especially along route-53, East starting at H-515. The infamous intersection at Main St & route-53, that causes traffic jams is another "malfunction junction" that irritates drivers and those pedestrians attempting to cross at this dangerous traffic light. A little bit of trickery that city/county officials use is to leave up signs that makes it appear that businesses are there when in fact they've gone out of business. And, what you don't see is the behind the scenes bad politics between city & county entrenched officials. Those selfish on-going battles hurt everyone. The question arises as to how do these elected and appointed officials treat businesses? The potential is there for good.
+3 #7 edge770 2013-07-17 09:38
Over the weekend we ventured north to Murphy NC. EVERY community was vibrant, people engaging in commerce and having a good time EXCEPT Jasper/Pickens. When I first read the article, I thought it was partly a "Mountain/Rural " issue. But it's not. We have a leadership/hung er problem. A complete redevelopment of the downtown corridor, new economic development initiatives/dir ector and way to lure YOUNG workers to town ASAP. Vibrancy with culture, food and work is needed desperately. Retail and Residential not only doesn't pay the bills but over time doesn't age well. Time for vigorous, passionate leadership that looks at the entire community, not for themselves. Tight building codes, and develop a plan and stick to it, not copy catting failed projects south of Pickens. If this doesn't start in the next year or so, I fear for a more permanent stain the viability of Pickens/Jasper in the long run. Opportunity must be made not wished for.
0 #8 Jess 2013-07-23 11:55
How about making it an attraction for people and their families instead of putting in shops just for locals. Everything that is fun in Jasper always ends up getting shut down because the city and county don't like to work. Kids in this town have nothing to do so no wonder crime is on their agenda. The only place adults have to go after a hard week of work is Rocco's and not all of us like that atmosphere. We would like a fun place to take our families to on weekends to keep money in our community and to draw people from surrounding counties here to enjoy our little town. Keep in mind that the people in our community are willing to help but if you keep making it hard on us then we will spend our money in Ellijay, Blue Ridge, and Blairsville where they have set up the perfect atmosphere for small town people like us.

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