Jefferson, Georgia - A "Main Streets in 3D" Community

Jefferson GA downtownMain Street Jefferson in Jefferson, Georgia, (5-square blocks, 33 buildings, pop/ 7,400) was selected as one of the 2010 Main Streets in 3D project communities. This page will track the community's progress as it models its downtown using Google SketchUp and Earth and shows how this 3D visualization tool can be used for revitalization and presservation.

This tiny downtown has signed on partners, giving it the human resources, photographic expertise and equipment, GIS expertise, and meeting and training space so that the community can focus on smart growth. Jackson County is located in the 22nd fastest-growing county in the United States, according to the 2008 U.S. Census, which is why Main Street Jefferson has resolved to eventually bring this technology to the entire county. Locally, however, having a 3D Main Street will allow Main Street Jefferson and its partners to develop online business recruitment tools as well as reach out to tourists by providing them with interactive virtual points of interest and better directions. Almost $100,000 in grant money has enabled the community to embark on a new streetscaping project that will plant new trees downtown. Using Google SketchUp, the town can virtually plant the trees and plan the best placement so that the trees won't block business signs but will provide plenty of shade for pedestrians. Storm water runoff will also be improved. Main Street in 3D will help the program administer its façade grant program and assist business and property owners with sensitive design improvements. Various partners, too, are excited about the possibilities Google SketchUp brings – from Georgia Power envisioning the downtown once utilities are buried to the police department making better plans for security – there is a lot of potential ready to be tapped.

October Progress Update

Jefferson was the first Main Street in 3D participant to receive its training on September 9th. Beth Laughinghouse, the executive director for Main Street Jefferson, said Google SketchUp is “mind boggling” – not because it was hard to use, but rather because the software can do so much. The training's participants ran the gamut from Jackson County’s GIS specialist and photographer to students from University of Georgia and the local grade school.

“The eight-grade students were the whizzes of the group,” says Beth. “They learned about how we were involved in Main Streets in 3D and asked their teacher if they could get involved.” The students were signed up immediately for the volunteer project and were ready to get started as soon as the training ended. Beth pointed out that she really likes relying on students of all ages for this project because working on modeling the downtown is part of their required class work, so she knows it will get done and that teachers can help them if they get stuck.

She plans on coordinating a second training in December to get more graduate students on board, too. Together, the volunteers plan to model close to 40 buildings by the end of 2010 and then expand their modeling beyond the immediate downtown area.

The city and Main Street Jefferson are very excited to model the downtown and getting started in using their virtual community. Jackson County GIS Manager Joel Logan pointed out in an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Google Earth will help put this small town on the map – literally – and  see tremendous possibilities in a tool that lets anyone around the world check out Jefferson from their computer.

City officials also see this as a money saving tool – they can demonstrate building improvements and historic preservation without even spending a dime. Beth points out that while the on-site training with Igloo Studios is valued up to $5,000, you can’t put a value on being able to potentially drawing new industry, jobs, and tourists to the area.

Here’s a few links to some local news coverage:

 http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/072310/new_681235679.shtml

 http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/35790/

 http://www.ajc.com/business/google-picks-jefferson-for-577389.html