The Georgia Trust


By Gregory B. Paxton, President & CEO of The Georgia Trust

For the first time, you’re reading about our Preservation Award winners as they happen. With the Annual Meeting occurring at the end of April rather than the beginning, we’re able to share with you, our members and readers, the names of the Preservation Award winners and information on each of their projects two months earlier than normal.

As you peruse this issue, we hope you’ll spend a few extra moments looking over the details of the award winners because they represent the best of the best in the state this year.

These winning entries also remind us that in the world of preservation, nothing happens overnight. The projects and properties being recognized have been with us for years. In fact, the oldest award winners are some 200 years old, and the youngest award winner is fast approaching 70!

In this age of instant communications, fast-food service, rush-rush-rush, hurry-up-and-get-it-done, it’s good to be reminded periodically that quality properties and projects, which have been seasoned over time, still have value and can be put to productive or adaptive use.

Not only is this evident in our annual preservation awards, but also on a larger, more comprehensive scale through our Main Street Design Assistance program.

The national program celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and we, The Georgia Trust, have played a major role along with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) since Day One in Georgia.

In 1980, the National Trust selected Georgia as one of six states to participate in the pilot program, and DCA selected five cities—Athens, Canton, LaGrange, Swainsboro and Waycross—to be the pilot cities.

Over the years, Main Street has grown to include 105 Georgia cities participating in the program. According to the National Trust, the Main Street program is one of the most cost-efficient economic development programs in the country. For each dollar spent on operating a local program, $40.35 is generated in return to the community.

But Main Street has delivered more than just an economic return to those participating communities.

Through the Main Street program, each of those 105 communities came together and agreed that significant intrinsic value existed in what was already in their downtown. And each developed a plan to enhance that sense of community using smart, balanced growth strategies.

At times it seems to be all too easy—especially in this world of franchise cookie-cutter store designs and big-box retailers—to say “out with the old and in with the new.”

It is important to understand that the Trust is not opposed to franchise locations and other new development in any community. They have value, a place and an important role in our communities’ future. But we believe that they need to be part of the community, reflecting a sense of the community as a whole.

Through Main Street, more and more business owners, community leaders, developers and residents have come to realize the benefits of reusing and rehabilitating historic buildings in their downtown centers.

Frankly it’s exciting to watch. Over time, once desolate downtowns in Georgia awaken and come to life with people shopping, working and living in those communities once again.

And it is more than satisfying to know your Georgia Trust, which has given rehabilitation advice to 3,000 businesses in Main Street communities since inception, has been a major player in reversing downtown decline.

It didn’t happen instantaneously. It didn’t happen overnight. There was no magic bullet, and there was no quick fix.

Very much like the properties and projects recognized with this year’s Preservation Awards, it has taken time, energy, commitment and support to make it happen.

Perhaps it is in this context that the words “Reclaim, Restore and Revitalize” really take on the meaning of what The Georgia Trust is all about.

March/April 2006



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