In its late-19th and early-20th century heyday, downtown Jonesboro was a railroad hub, its bustling Central Business District home to popular shops, the town newspaper, and — as historical gossip has it — several popular speakeasies during Prohibition, ensuring ample foot traffic both day and night.

In recent decades, the south metro city has seen many changes. Today, many municipal functions keep this Clayton County seat busy during the day, but it’s fairly quiet at night, functioning as something of a bedroom community.

But Jonesboro has been working to change all that, employing funding from ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) to transform itself into a pedestrian-friendly destination complete with restaurants, retail, and housing.

Here are some highlights:

Lee Street Park in Jonesboro, GA
Jonesboro expanded and transformed a formerly underused greenspace into the 5.7 acre Lee Street Park.

Lee Street Park
The city renovated and expanded a formerly underused greenspace into a 5.7-acre park that connects its downtown commercial district to residential neighborhoods, including some new housing, as well to the nearby GRTA Park-and-Ride and busy Tara Boulevard. With a playground, farmers’ market, walking trail, and two stages that have hosted free concerts drawing thousands of attendees, the park has become a popular downtown destination — and garnered a Development of Excellence Award from ARC in 2016.

Jonesboro, GA fire station
Broad Street Plaza’s city green, as seen from the renovated fire station

Broad Street Plaza
Call it the once-and-future central business district. This spot was once home to bustling businesses and the city fire house but had long fallen into neglect. Now, this block has been reinvigorated, opening this spring as Broad Street Plaza.

The Plaza serves as the keystone in a larger revitalization, attracting nearby businesses such as German grocery Lidl and local restaurant chain Slutty Vegan. At the heart of the plaza sits the city green, slated for a restaurant and brewery. The city green hosted its first public events this spring. The plaza also houses the beginnings of a planned greenway walking trail that will connect this area to Lee Street Park.

Jonesboro City Center at night

Jonesboro City Center

Earlier this year, the city broke ground on a new city center adjacent to Lee Street Park. The new two-story limestone building will boast an airy atrium, ample city government office-space, as well as space for community gatherings.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.