“We have some ideas on the drawing board that I think will ultimately make a difference in the downtown we don’t have,” says Mayor Randy Toms.
Toms says there are local developers who are interested in developing an attractive downtown for the city.
Some steps need to be taken with those developers before anything can be made official, but the ideas on the table are tangible.
Toms, who has been in Warner Robins since 1960, says they used to have somewhat of a downtown area near Commercial Circle. That area gradually faded over time.
The Mayor says he’s more excited now than he’s been in a while about the possibility of building a downtown area for the city.
The project would have to be done from the ground up.
We’re going to have to develop a downtown. We don’t have the bone structure that Perry has. We don’t have the bone structure that Macon has with a viable downtown that all you have to do is come in and renovate buildings. We don’t really have that so we are going to have to develop a downtown that is fun, creative and gives the opportunity for people to thrive.
Mayor Toms says the city has to be a partner in the development from start to finish, and on into the future.
“I think we need to take some of the areas that we actually already own in our downtown area, and we either need to make them available to developers who are willing to come in and make an investment in our downtown, or we need to make some attraction spots that people want to come to. We could have entertainment or food truck days and we could have everything right downtown that brings people there.”
Right now the city has businesses and areas that do well during lunchtime hours. People come to those places, but then they leave and don’t go back downtown, says Toms.
We want to stop that. We want to give them a reason to come back downtown and spend some time in the evening.
The Mayor says there are some other spaces on Commercial Circle that are starting to get the flavor they want to see expand further–from the Arts Society using space in that area, to a new bar in the same area.
He says that shows him there is potential for more.
The city already has a Downtown Development Authority in place. Toms says the group has been fairly inactive over the years, but they are starting to get it up and running again.
“We do know it’s there. It does have members. In order for us to get a really vibrant downtown going, we are going to have to get more involved with our Downtown Development Authority.”
Warner Robins is home to Robins Air Force Base, which the Mayor says makes it economically important for the city starts making plans and putting them into action for a centralized downtown.
We have young airman who come from all over the country to be stationed at Robins Air Force Base and they are looking for a vibrant, active downtown environment. When they come off the base and don’t find in it Warner Robins, they go to other cities. Macon, Perry, other cities that have that attractive and fun downtown environment. They should be able to find that right off the base, but they don’t.
He says there are people now who work at Robins AFB, but live elsewhere.
With the development of a downtown space, the belief is that the city would be able to keep those people in town.
“I think we are going to see more of the people who are moving out of town, come back to Warner Robins to live, work, and play in the same area. I think that is what they are looking for.”