LEW OLIVER who has worked on award winning urban and community designs, has brought his talents to Cairo, his childhood hometown.
Community and residential designer Lew Oliver is preparing to present his ideas for Cairo after spending the last few days meeting with community leaders and spending time in the town where he lived during his young years. Oliver and his Atlanta-based design team are presenting their ideas to invigorate the town Thursday.
The group started their work on Monday morning with a three-hour gathering of local business and civic leaders. Oliver, whose Lew Oliver Inc., has designed such projects as Rosemary Beach, Fla., and is working on a project for Cashiers, N.C., greeted the crowd Monday with many of the positives he sees here. Some he mentioned included, real estate depressed in value and some underutilized; well preserved city grid; infrastructure in place; acceptable level of economic activity with room to grow; outdoor focus; best in class produce; climate; unencumbered by antebellum history; and the people.
Oliver said in the last five years, he had noticed improvements in Cairo’s downtown such as where Monday’s meeting was held, The Foundry, developed by Shanda and Drew Pyrz as meeting and living spaces. “This building is a fine example of passion turned into reality,” said Oliver.
Examples of economic development that Oliver suggested included encouraging “maker retail” to attract creative people to fill commercial spaces who can make their wares in the space and sell to the public in person and online.
Local insurance agent and developer Chuck Thomas said whatever we do it needs to be marketed.
Georgia Representative Darlene Taylor suggested that Tired Creek is a “diamond in the rough” that will bring economic vitality to the area.
Oliver said downtown Cairo and the lake are symbiotic and could be marketed together.
Oliver then introduced the crowd via teleconference to Corey Gilbert, a location scout for film and television based in metro Atlanta. After talking with Gilbert about what makes one location better than another, Liz Treadwell, a member of the design team, said she would put together a look book of potential locations in Grady County for Gilbert.
Next, a teleconference with Rawson Haverty focused on the economic potential of aquaponics, which can be developed on relatively small land tracts as an economic booster.
Oliver said he wanted to let the group know about “forward looking enterprises that can enliven downtown.”
Oliver said he was intensely interested in the now vacant depot, which he said he initially envisioned as a food hall that could be tied to agriculture grown in Grady County.
“Food and alcohol draw people like nothing else,” he said. “People will make their home around that more than anything else.”
Oliver is the son of Naomi Oliver and the late Methodist pastor, William Oliver. Other members of his team include John Neas, controller and executive services administrator; Will McCollum, designer; and Liz Treadwell, sales strategist and marketing director.
Cairo Mayor Howard Thrower, who has enthusiastically promoted Oliver’s interest in working with his childhood hometown said he “wants something to bring people from other towns that’s unique.” Thursday he will get the first glimpse at Oliver’s thoughts.