"Heart & Soul of Georgia" Bus Tour Stops In Valdosta

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Valdosta is the first stop of the 2014 Georgia Cities Foundation "Heart & Soul of Georgia" Bus Tour. The purpose of the tour is to educate and inform local government leaders and developers on the importance of successful downtown developments.

"Really it's something the community has to embrace and we're fortunate that people in this community see downtown as the heart and soul of he city and of the community as a whole, so then you begin to build on that," said Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson.

The visitors were taken on a walking tour Wednesday, which highlights three downtown development projects, including the Ashley House.

"Valdosta is a terrific example of revitalized downtown that places emphasis on the downtown being the heart and soul of the community," said Georgia Cities Foundation President Mike Starr.

City leaders say the greatest example is the early retirement of the local Community Improvement District tax, which allowed property owners to contribute $800,000 towards the $12 million downtown streetscape project. That CID was retired eight years early.

"We were here on the tour about 4 years ago and we're seeing even greater successes," said Starr.

The next cities to be featured on the tour are Thomasville and Moultrie, which takes place on Thursday.