Talk of a kids’ sprinkler playground in East Rome’s Banty Jones Park is just a preview of a larger picture intended as a massive revitalization effort in East Rome.
A vision, still in the planning stages, intends to re-create an entire area of East Rome now comprised of John Graham Homes, the park, and much of the Maple Avenue corridor south to U.S. 27.
The plan includes a complete renovation and expansion of services available at Banty Jones Park as well as additional services for residents including a children’s academy as well as community centers — all located near a trail extension which would connect Rome to Lindale.
Some parts of that multi-faceted plan have been in the works for some time while others are currently under construction. Thus far, a partnership between the city and Northwest Georgia Housing Authority has secured federal planning grant funds and, one project, Sandra D. Hudson Villas along East 14th Street, is near completion.
The plan for the area — which will cover the area where John Graham Homes is now — doesn’t just concern public housing, authority Executive Director Sandra Hudson said. The plan for homes built on the John Graham homes site, as well as other parcels in the area, will include duplexes, town homes, quadriplexes and single family homes.
The new builds will be a mixed-income development, and not all will be public housing. Approximately 20% of the new builds in the area will be market value affordable housing, Hudson said.
East Rome Crossing
That plan, dubbed East Rome Crossing, covers the area encompassing the Norfolk Southern Railway to the west, 12th Street to the north, Flannery to the east and U.S. 27 near Georgia Northwestern Technical College to the south.
The homes will be built in three phases, but the central part of the overall plans is Banty Jones Park, Community Development Director Bekki Fox said.
Planners quickly realized the importance of that park to the area during initial surveys and listening sessions with residents. As they surveyed residents in the area, time and time again, most polled said they wanted to take back the park.
One of the ways to do that is to make it a community draw and Fox said having visible amenities, like the splash pad, will be a draw for people from East Rome as well as Lindale, Silver Creek and Polk County as well.
“It’s going to look a lot different than it is now,” Fox told members of the Rome and Floyd County governments during a joint services meeting early Tuesday. “We think a splash pad is going to be a draw for the community,” Fox said.
But the plans don’t just call for a fenced in 75-person splash pad for kids, it includes plans for tennis courts, a community center, handicapped accessible and toddler playgrounds and a wellness areas for seniors.
“We want to make (Banty Jones) a premier park and we think it can be,” Fox said.
As she described all the changes they listed for the park and the area, Fox said it’s a long term plan that will have to be done in phases. Funding for the overall plan will likely be drawn from a mixed-bag of sources including federal HUD funds and grants alongside some local dollars.
“We’re in charge of the long view,” City Manager Sammy Rich said. The city got a lot of flack when they constructed the walking bridge near The Forum, he said.
“They called it the bridge to nowhere, but look at the development in process over there,” Rich said. “It’s not just here and today, it’s what is going to be there in the future.”