This article appeared in the September 2016 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
The town of Braselton celebrated its 100th birthday recently by opening the first phase of the new Town Green Park. Braselton was chartered on Aug. 21, 1916.
The town now joins a number of other cities and towns with the creation of a new, central green space, and officials have also realized the benefits of creating these critical gathering spaces.
Some cities were not designed with a town green; other cities have lost theirs over the years through development; and newly created cities often are faced with the challenge of where and how to create their city center. Cities that have created these central, public spaces have seen great economic and social benefits as a result of their efforts. For example, when Suwanee city officials decided to create a Town Center Park, the parcels surrounding the space became prime real estate—or “beachfront property.”
Braselton’s new Town Green Park became a reality after years of planning and anticipation. Originally envisioned by the town’s 2003 Citizens Committee, this space was seen as the town’s focal point and community gathering spot. Then-Braselton Mayor Pat Graham, who is now chairwoman of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners, said, “the town feels strongly that the citizens of Braselton who volunteered their time to create a revitalized downtown are important and the improvements being constructed will move us forward to be able to achieve their vision.”
The Town Green Park includes an open lawn area for functions such as festivals, movies and concerts. With the addition of an event pavilion, restrooms and a concession facility, officials and residents believe this space creates the center of social activity for the town.
The Town Green Park is adjacent to several historic retail buildings including the iconic Braselton Brothers Department Store. Today, the Braselton Brothers commercial complex houses enterprises offering fine dining, premium oils and vinegars, boutique shopping and spa, a hair salon and an antique mall. This serves as a testament to the town’s draw as a major antiques destination.
Braselton is already seeing interest from businesses, “There are several private development projects already in discussion adjacent to the town green,” said Braselton Town Manager Jennifer Dees. “The park is already spurring economic development in downtown Braselton.”
Braselton Downtown Director Amy Pinnell, whose office is in the Braselton Brothers Store complex, said of the efforts of the Downtown Development Authority and the town, “I have only been told very positive things from locals and long-time residents. Everyone seems very happy with the progress we are making to revitalize our downtown.”
“The area’s small-town charm, which boosts loads of character has historic buildings which have been preserved,” said Pinnell. “The revitalization of downtown, the cooperativeness of the local residents and business owners and their interest in the improvements combined with the active support of many great volunteers make downtown Braselton unique.”