The most recent sign of BID’s efforts is the decision of the group of business and property owners to complete the financing package for the Dancing Flower statue that will go in front of the parking deck at Fifth Avenue and Broad Street.
The project is being undertaken as something of a memorial to the late Mickey Dobbs, who headed the Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful program for years. The family made a significant contribution and initiated a public fundraising effort that just wasn’t moving quickly enough — so the BID board decided to kick in the remainder of the money to get that project off the drawing board and into bricks and mortar.
The Dancing Flower was a $13,000 project that is bound to raise a few eyebrows when construction is completed.
“With any kind of art structure on the street, people will have varying degrees of likes and dislikes,” Blumberg said. “The Dancing Flower — it’ll look like a large flower; strong enough for people to sit on and take pictures. It’ll be different, and we hope to do more of that on the street, but it’s not inexpensive to do.”
Rome architect Robert Noble, designer of the Dancing Flower, said he hopes fabrication work will get under way quickly so the art can be planted early this summer.
Additionally, BID has made a $2,500 contribution to the Downtown Development Authority’s design committee, specifically for bike racks to be located throughout the downtown district.
The BID, which encompasses a fairly large area of the Between the Rivers area of Rome, generates approximately $50,000 a year of revenue earmarked for board-sanctioned projects. Property owners pay an extra 1-mill levy on their taxes, which is designated for BID. Business owners pay a business license surcharge that amounts to 50 percent of the annual fee, not to exceed $100.
Last year the BID group targeted a major cleanup of properties in downtown.
“Last year was a little bit different, because we spent a little over $60,000 — because they kept money in reserve over the last couple of years, for whatever reason,” Blumberg said. “We decided as a committee that keeping the money in the bank is not helping the downtown area.”
Much of that money was allocated to the DDA for façade improvements. A large chunk ultimately was used to help demolish the old Top Hat building at the corner of Third Avenue and Broad Street.
“That turned out tremendously, for both the owner and the city,” Blumberg said.
The parking lot that was developed on that site until owner Ira Levy is ready to move forward with a mixed-used retail and residential development has 36 spaces. Seventeen are leased by the month; the rest are available for three-hour public parking.
Fixing up the fronts
Blumberg said he was pleased to see that another restaurant, Jamwich being developed by Shadae Yancey, is going into the former Victorian Rose Tea Room location in the 500 block. And the Lynn’s Uniforms building is in the process of a major facelift. The old awning has already been removed, and they’re in the process of redoing their façade.
“There are five or six buildings — the old Herb Shop right next to me needs to be fixed up, the building across the street between Harvest Moon and the (Dogwood) bookstore needs to be done, the old Legends store, any store that looks like that, that’s what we want to target,” said Blumberg.
The BID group does have something in mind for a number of the vacant storefronts following a suggestion made by the Fanning Institute team that recently wrote a new Master Plan for downtown Rome.
“One of the priority goals is to put window treatments in them and clean them up of all signage,” Blumberg said. “The window treatments would be old photos, shot in black and white, of Rome. Bill Bussey-type pictures that the library has provided us with, different shots of Rome which will cover (the windows) as a film.”
Ann Pullen, who chairs the design committee for the DDA, said the whole idea of providing something of a uniform look for vacant storefronts has not received the warmest of receptions by local real estate agents. She said the BID group and DDA design committee is working to come up with a design that might involve standard-sized “For Lease” or “For Sale” signs that could be branded with an agent’s logo.
“I don’t know whether that will actually come to pass, but I think it would improve the look of downtown,” Pullen said.
DDA Director Ann Arnold said the annual BID meeting in January drew one of the largest crowds since the organization was initiated.
“I feel so good about what’s going on with BID. We’re continuing that momentum,” she said.
Blumberg said the effort by the business and property owners group is not at all unique.
“If you look at some of the more progressive cities, they have a lot of private funding, business funding, owner funding to get things done that enhance the overall structure of the city,” he said. “Charleston, Savannah are some examples. Asheville, N.C. — they have a lot of things you can go to. Chattanooga on the Arts District side, you can walk along the street (and) they have footprints of dancing lessons — the Mambo, Cha-Cha — that are very unique, and we’d like to keep going in that direction.”
That might not be the stretch you’d imagine. After all, Rome has already experienced Zumba during parties on Broad Street.