CAIRO — Local officials will take part in an intensive planning session next month to craft a new look for downtown Cairo, the city’s mayor announced.

Mayor Howard Thrower said Lew Oliver, a Cairo native who works as a town plan designer in Atlanta, will visit Cairo from October 5-8 to take part in a three-and-a-half day planning charrette.

“What we will do in those sessions is design how we want Cairo and Grady County to look,” Thrower said. “Then we’ll be marketing it and branding it and getting out the word.”

Thrower made the announcement at last week’s meeting of the Grady County Board of Education. The mayor had approached the school board to request their presence at the planning session, which will be attended by members of the Cairo City Council and Grady County Board of Commissioners. Thrower also expressed interest in the event being attended by a local student and teacher.

Also attending the charrette will be Tammy Massey and Reynolds Brown, both Cairo natives turned architects. The two designers will create visuals to allow the planners’ vision to come to life as work in the charrette progresses.

Part of the effort will include determining the city’s “personality” which can then be branded, Thrower said.

“How do we want to recognize ourselves?” the mayor said. “We don’t want to be Thomasville. We don’t want to be Bainbridge. We will be branding ourselves.”

The planning sessions, which will take place at The Foundry, will begin at 9 a.m. each day and run until the early evening, with breaks for lunch in between. Participation in the sessions will be limited to 24 people at a time.

The effort will be supported by the Grady County Joint Development Authority, the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce and the city Downtown Development Authority.

Efforts to organize the planning session began the day after Thrower was elected in June, the mayor said.

“One of the things that I wanted to do was to come up with a plan that would affect, restore and create a new downtown Cairo,” he said.

Thrower said similar development concepts have been completed in the past but were never used. The mayor said he plans for this effort to end with concrete results.

“It was what I ran on for office and I don’t want it to sit on a shelf,” he said.

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