Road to neater U.S. 17 starting

Plans to improve image of gateway being unveiled

The Brunswick News: Thursday, May 30, 2013, The Voice of the Coast, Volume 111, Number 222

Ten Savannah College of Art and Design students will present their vision for a revitalized U.S. 17 corridor into Brunswick to civic and government leaders today in a public meeting at Old City Hall.

The students in the school’s master of urban design program have spent their spring quarter researching the Golden Isles and designing a new look for the county’s most used entrance road. It’s all part of the gateway project, an initiative to spruce up the entryways to the county and to reduce blight, headed by the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau and representatives of the Brunswick and Glynn County commissions.

Julie Martin, who represents the city commission, says she isn’t looking for a complete remodeling of U.S. 17 to happen overnight. Instead, she is optimistic that the presentation will lead to a larger discussion about how to improve the community and inspire change.

She hopes to redefi ne the character of the roadway to create a more attractive and livable environment.

“In some ways, it is the most direct way to get from the interstate to St. Simons or Jekyll, but at the same time, you want people to slow down and realize that this is another destination area,” Martin said.

A great deal of research and fact fi nding has gone into the students’ work, said Scott McQuade, executive director of the tourism bureau. He is not sure what to expect, but anticipates the designs will come from a variety of perspectives.

“It’s kind of like waiting for a birthday when you have no idea what someone has gotten you,” McQuade said.

Not every design will be a gem, but McQuade maintains the test of the project will be ensuring that concepts don’t sit dormant.

Though the designs will focus on the future of U.S. 17, some dilapidated properties could escape mandated improvements if any new building code requirements would apply only to future construction or changes.

Even so, Martin hopes that efforts to revitalize the thoroughfare will inspire property owners to clean up. She says until now they haven’t been given a good reason to take care of unsightly conditions.

“It will give them an opportunity to take a look at what their property looks like,” Martin said, adding that the initiative could lead to an increase in property values and, in turn, a new outlook.

“To me, it couldn’t get any worse than it is right now, so we’re giving folks an opportunity to do something better and become part of that new character,” Martin said.

McQuade also wants to see the “highest and best potential” become a reality and lead to investment. “This is the beginning of the inspiration for both property owners and potential investors,” McQuade said.

Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at The Brunswick News, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.

Highway 17 Revisited