Brian Stockton, Woodstock’s city planner for the last six years, has been transitioning out of his former role over the last few weeks, but already has a few goals in mind for new projects, as well as a continuation of other city goals.
At his office in downtown Woodstock, Stockton said he’s hoping to enhance the economic development brand, consider future plans for the City Center campus and create a business recruitment package.
As for the first goal, Stockton said he’s looking to use the recently approved wayfinding signage package to present a single brand for all of the city’s economic development departments: the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Downtown Development Authority, Main Street program and the Department of Economic Development.
“It’s about really going in and presenting one brand for all of the functions this office takes care of,” Stockton said. “It’s just creating one identifiable brand for all four (departments) ... It may be just as simple as making the text exactly the same, but we have a logo for the DDA that’s different from Main Street that’s different from CVB that’s different from the city.”
The development of City Center, and primarily Building B, is another of Stockton’s sticking points.
A portion of Building B, one of three buildings that made up the former Woodstock Community Church, will be demolished as part of widening Towne Lake Parkway, part of a long term city goal to reduce traffic in the area, create a left-turn lane and construct sidewalks along both sides of the street.
Stockton said he plans to look at the site as a whole and what can be done with it, including whether or not City Hall, which is now located off Highway 92, comes back, the theater remains or a parking deck is built there, just a few of many options under consideration.
His predecessor, Billy Peppers, who left at the end 2012 for a position at the Department of Community Affairs, discussed moving the visitors center, located currently at Dean’s Store across the street, back into the building. Stockton said he plans to revisit that idea.
“(We’re) just making sure what we do now doesn’t affect anything we could do down the road,” Stockton said.
Also, Stockton said he’s hoping to create a recruitment package for retail and office businesses, which he said has been done by city officials in the past but not as an overall strategy to help companies find needed space. Stockton said he plans to utilize a market study performed last summer by Gibbs Planning Group as well as a recent hotel study to determine areas where these types of businesses would fit into the community.
“I think it’s a change.... In the past, people have always come to us,” Stockton said. “Now a lot of businesses, that space might exist, but they might not be able to envision an existing space being what they need.”
For example, Northside Hospital-Cherokee wasn’t originally looking at the Towne Lake site where they now are constructing a 110,817-square-foot medical office building.
“We kind of helped them see that that site would work,” Stockton said. “So I think the recruitment package is inviting them to look at some of the options we have.”
At a recent DDA meeting, City Manager Jeff Moon told the board of Stockton’s hire and that he didn’t initially apply. Stockton said Moon approached him about the role.
“He gauged my interest knowing my interest in downtown from the planning side and living here and from the trail aspect of it and asked if I was interested in the job,” Stockton said. “So we sat down and talked about it, and I guess I was.”
“It’s not completely different from what I was doing,” he said. “I think it’s probably going to be more on the bricks and mortar side and figuring out ways to have the city be proactively looking at helping those projects or spearheading those projects and maybe partnering with private developers to come in and do those.”
Stockton said project development was his favorite part of working as city planner.
“It wasn’t getting into zoning and coding and signs and all that stuff, it was actually sitting down with people like Walton (Communities LLC) to get those projects done,” he said of the recent opening of Woodstock West by Walton. “It’s a continuation of that from this side and knowing what tools are available and may be useful.”
Stockton said he’s looking forward to working with business owners interested in all that Woodstock has to offer.
“Now that people come out here and they see that it’s a livable place, they may own a company and may want to expand their office here because it’s such a neat place,” Stockton said. “I think we’re starting to see some of those requests now in companies that are interested in being by the trail system. ... We haven’t had that necessarily before.”
Stockton has lived in Woodstock with his wife Jennifer Stockton, executive director of Greenprints Alliance, since 2007.
“I started the (city planner) job in 2006 and we liked it so much that we decided we wanted to be here,” Stockton said. “Most of the people I work with, if they didn’t live here already, they’ve moved in since they’ve started working here.”