Part IV of ‘Why we’re excited about 2018.’ Today: The realization of the ‘live/work/play’ push of downtown Rome.
On the second Thursday of most months, the staff of Rome’s Downtown Development Authority as well as voluntary board members and some community representatives gather in the training room of the Carnegie Building to debate the comings and goings along Broad Street and adjoining neighborhoods.
Sometimes, the meetings highlight the free community summer concerts. Other times, the board reviews applications for facade improvements or other updates.
The restaurant boom was just starting several yeas ago so any insider information was treated like gold. Then-DDA Director Ann Arnold also would talk about the mission to bring more people downtown, not just during the working hours but also after work and on the weekends. The goal: Full-time residences up and down Broad Street.
Arnold retired just about a year ago, right as the loft boom was exploding. Downtown had had some lofts in the 200 and 400 blocks in recent years but the list of projects just completed or under way was growing. The Griffin. Gas Light. Cotton Block — all with premium loft living, starting around $1,200 per unit. Vacancies have been rare and the demand has led to additional projects, some more “boutique” with two or three units per building. Wayne Robinson has some on the way above “The Vogue.” Fred Taylor apparently has plans for three or four atop the Fricks building he just bought.
And Ira Levy is taking it a step further with 26 condominiums as well as retail at The Lofts at Broad and Third.
Those lofts, together with more than 20 restaurants and a surge in boutiques, has given downtown more of a destination feel. High school students are meeting friends at Swift & Finch as well as at Frios, Rock ‘n Roll Roll Ice Cream Rolls or the Creamery.
Rome City Brewing Co. is expanding to a second location, at 333 Broad St., just feet away from the original. By early next year, Jay Shell and Dr. Trent Prault will be brewing more than ever as a new 10-barrel system comes online. Plus two other downtown businesses, The Foundry Growler Station and River Dog Outpost, are doing great. Together with RCBC, they’re making Rome a must for craft beer enthusiasts.
That early reference to the restaurant surge — it really hasn’t let up as yet. Middle Eastern Grill and Jerusalem Express are due soon as is perhaps a upper-end restaurant within the confines of The Vogue.
This year, 2017, also will be known as the Year of the Boutiques as both existing and new spots flooded downtown Rome.
And the wild card of the year, Candor Insurance’s goal of a large downtown workforce powered by millennials, is starting to bloom.
Bottom line: We hear a lot about the confluence of our three rivers in Greater Rome. On land, that confluence is happening on Broad Street and through the downtown neighborhoods with much more due in 2018. Our advice: Those monthly meetings continue each second Thursday at 8:30 a.m. if you want to hear what’s next.