Valdosta Daily Times

May 15, 2014

Valdosta’s Heart & Soul

State visitors tour downtown

Desiree Carver
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Standing as a testament to an era long past, the Ashley House, formerly the Daniel Ashley Hotel, holds onto the memories of its former social glory.

Once acting as a hub for the elite, this building still lends itself to the needs of Valdostans. In 1980, it was reopened and has been a 100 percent HUD rental assistance property for the elderly. The building is currently undergoing renovations.

Ascending the stairs of the Ashley House, a group of state and community building professionals toured the longtime Downtown Valdosta fixture. The tour was part of the 2014 Georgia Cities Foundation Heart and Soul of Georgia Bus Tour, which highlights the importance of successful downtown development.

These visitors learned of the Ashley House’s past, its present development and its future.

In 2013, a project was undertaken to begin a $4.5 million rehabilitation of the building, utilizing both the historic tax credit program and low income housing tax credits. A complete interior renovation is underway and the rear parking lot is being redesigned to create a courtyard for residents.

Restoration work includes capturing the historic elegance of the former hot spot. Additions will include a projecting neon sign similar to the one that originally graced the building in the 1940s.

“Our consultant out of Savannah is working with us to redo all the molding around the top and they are having to rebuild all the missing pieces by hand,” says Rhett Holmes, Integrity Development Partners housing president, referring to the intricate molding that will preserve the historic feel of the building.

The Heart and Soul tour made Valdosta the first stop of a three-city tour of southwest Georgia. Since beginning the tours in 2001, Valdosta has been a stop on three occasions. Cities are selected based on their efforts to create vibrant and strong communities.

“We are proud that Downtown Valdosta is once again showcased as an excellent example of successful public-private partnerships,” said Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson. “Our downtown validates the principle that progress and preservation can take place simultaneously through proper

planning, economic sustainability and revitalization programs, culture and community emphasis, and with a focus on preserving the best of our community for future generations.”

The Downtown Valdosta tour led guests to the CJB and Cotton Corner Building. This building has a colorful past which was weighed while planning renovations. The original tin ceiling tiles were restored. The original pine floors of the second floor and all original doors were refinished. Windows and hardware were repaired, refinished and reused. The second floor serves as the corporate headquarters for CJB Industries while the ground floor has been left open to serve as a special-event space with a catering kitchen in the rear.

Tour participants toured 306 to 310 N. Patterson St. to view the thriving business that resulted from the Cox Project. Bringing with it a market for downtown dining, the Cox Project resulted in Covington’s Dining and Catering, 306 North Restaurant and Covington’s Rentals. This project brought a much-needed restaurant-and-lounge component to the ever-expanding downtown area while also creating an estimated 25 jobs.

In Mayor John Gayle’s letter to the Heart and Soul participants, he noted, “Even with our past success, there must be future planning in the district. Valdosta continues to aggressively plan for further preservation and new projects to meet a growing market demand.”