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City sees increase in development
If the city planner's phone is any indication, Brunswick is experiencing some growth this year.

Planner Arne Glaeser says his office has received more phone calls for property inquiries and issued more building permits during the past six months than Brunswick has seen for well over a year.

The city itself is beginning to take part in the area's recovery, beginning with new developments in the Oglethorpe block and on Norwich Street.

Brunswick officials will also begin studying the redevelopment of the city's riverfront property in October.

"There's definitely something happening," Glaeser said. "It's kind of everywhere -- certainly along (U.S.) 17. We have proposals coming in for Altama (Avenue) and Norwich (Street)."

He said work should be ramping up on the Oglethorpe block -- at the northernmost edge of downtown between Bay and Newcastle streets -- since the city commission approved adding the site to its urban redevelopment plan. Glynn County voters approved the use of special purpose local option sales tax funds to construct a conference center in the block, the site of the former four-story, 107-room Oglethorpe Hotel, which was razed in 1958.

Brunswick is hoping to receive a grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development to fund a market study of the site, which already includes an antique store in a building once occupied by a J.C. Penny department store and the former county health department, once a Holiday Inn motel.

Glaeser said the goal, if the grant is approved, is to conduct the study by the end of the year.

Construction is already under way for the Norwich Commons development at a corner of Norwich and Fourth streets. Brunswick provided the land for the development, which is expected to provide affordable housing for the community.

Mayor Bryan Thompson has touted the Norwich Commons development as a first step in improving the city's housing offerings. Work is moving rapidly, and the mayor says he expects the project to be completed by April.

Beginning next month, Glaeser says the city will issue a request for proposals to conduct assessments of the Mary Ross Waterfront Park.

Brunswick was awarded a Coastal Incentive Grant to study the waterfront's existing facilities, structural integrity and other needs.

The state contributed $17,500 for the work. Brunswick's share is $26,414.

Brunswick City Commissioner Julie Martin says she has had talks with business owners interested in opening up the waterfront to recreational activities, such as kayaking. She says the area would be an excellent location for outdoor concerts or weddings and possibly a revamped park and farmer's market.

If the study shows an overhaul of the East River waterfront is viable, Martin says the next step will be to seek more grant funding to begin the work.

"We're exploring a myriad of different opportunities, not only on the park area itself, but also with what activities could we offer that have to do with the waterfront," Martin said. "That's our waterway gateway right there.

"That's our one piece of Brunswick that's city owned and public. I think there's a lot potential there that could be realized."

* Reporter Kelly Quimby writes about government and other local topics. Contact her at kquimby@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.



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