Canton has been selected as one of the communities for the Georgia Economic Placemaking Collaborative program. This is a three-year program that is designed to assist cities in developing locally based strategies that identify the unique assets of their community and promote quality of life and economic sustainability.
As a part of this initiative, broad community representation and dedicated member participation, through a collective team to develop and implement an effective placemaking program, is required.
“We chose the Marietta Road community (aka Sunnyside) as the selected project for this program. The project is designed to help drive economic investment into the area to include opportunities for commercial and residential investment, activation of public park space, improvement for transportation and infrastructure and community pride,” Community Development Planner Brittany Anderson said.
Work to identify Sunnyside’s assets involved a collaboration between the community’s stakeholders, city employees Anderson, Bethany Watson and Scott Hooper, and council members Brooke Schmidt, Will Carlan and me.
The Etowah River, a historic area with a rich heritage of long-established residents and businesses, a Hispanic community that brings a beautiful cultural experience, and Harmon Park were cited. An added bonus for this community is close access to I-575 and easy walking distance to downtown.
A brainstorming session was held with a mix of residents and business and property owners, to gain their perspective and determine their wants and needs. We learned that they’d like street beautification, better communication with the city, community organization and help with blight. Sunnyside has a need for a grocery store to complement the existing Ramirez Carniceria, community gardens, soccer fields, additional sidewalks and affordable housing.
Canton officials will install two message boards along Marietta Road to inform residents of activities and events of interest. The information will be in English and Spanish, and will include a section for residents to add information. Bilingual yellow Sunnyside banners have been installed on light poles, and they’re creating a buzz by getting people talking about their community. Plans are being formulated to hold markets and music events to engage Sunnyside, specifically, and hear more from residents. Canton officials hope to introduce pop-up market events, with live music and food trucks, later in the year.
Harmon Park will get a substantial makeover, due to the efforts of Councilor Shawn Tolan, thanks to a grant from Atlanta United to convert some field space into mini-pitch soccer fields. It’s my hope to add garden space and a playground.
We don’t want to gentrify the area; we want to make it the best it can be for the people who call it home and the businesses who operate there.
To read more about Georgia Economic Placemaking Collaborative, visit www.georgiacitiesfoundation.org/Programs-Services/The-Georgia-Placemaking-Collaborative.aspx.
For more information on the history of Sunnyside, follow this link to an interview by Ann Fincher with resident Dot Patterson: https://bit.ly/3fvNnJS.
– Sandy McGrew served on the Cherokee Arts Council board for five years and currently serves on the Canton City Council.