These are among the top goals Canton residents expressed during a Main Street Community Stakeholders meeting on Tuesday night to develop a vision for downtown's future.
Representatives from the state Department of Community Affairs attended the meeting to talk about its Main Street Program with residents. Between 40 and 50 residents came to the meeting.
Canton is in the process of completing a checkpoint list to be designated a Main Street city by the DCA.
The program, which is coordinated by the DCA's Office of Downtown Development, assists Georgia cities in revitalizing their downtown commercial districts.
It uses a four-point approach to economic revitalization: organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. The program integrates practical management strategies with the physical improvement of building and public spaces, aggressive promotion and image building and the economic development of the area.
To be successful, cities are to hire what's considered a professional program manager to coordinate the downtown revitalization program.
The Main Street Program is reserved for cities with populations between 5,000 and 50,000.
Cities that already are in the Main Street Program include Acworth, Duluth, Douglasville, Suwannee, Cartersville and Stone Mountain.
In Cherokee, Woodstock already has begun the process to become a Main Street city. It's currently completing the process to be designated by the state.
Ginger Garrard, who was hired by the Canton City Council to be its Main Street director, said she hopes the city will be designated by November.
What's left for the Canton to do is to finish its work plan, write bylaws for the city's eight-member Main Street Board of Directors and provide more training for members.
Mrs. Garrard said she was pleased to hear the ideas of residents who attended the meeting.
Before coming to Canton, Mrs. Garrard owned a business for five years in Cartersville and was involved in its Main Street Program. While there, she said the city grew from four restaurants to 16 restaurants in downtown in five years.
"And that can easily be done here," she said.
Residents were asked to share what improvements it would like to see in the downtown area.
Judy Bishop said she would like to see more plays presented in the "wonderful" Canton Theatre.
"By including children's activities and art activities, you will attract more people," she said.
As a Realtor, she said she knows that potential buyers flock to cities with a thriving arts community.
"The more that's happening downtown, the more it will bring people into the community, and if they feel part of the community, they will stay," she added.
ODD Director Billy Parrish reminded Canton residents they did not have to emulate what other cities have done to become successful.
As a whole, Parrish said downtown districts across the state are "showing tremendous strengths as a community."
Bill Magruder, who lives in downtown Canton's oldest home, said he would like to see more "traditional" restaurants come into the area.
As for existing business, Magruder said he would like to see more of them remain open pass 5 p.m.
The restaurants and other businesses staying open at a later hour, he said, would bring more people into downtown Canton.
"It'll give people a place to go as a family," he said.
Mary Elizabeth Downs said she wants to see the city remove utility poles and wires and replace them with "more attractive" decorative lighting.
"It'll eliminate an eyesore and enable everyone to see the beauty of the buildings," she said.
She also said a professional theater director could help bring more of an arts scene to the city.
As for restaurants, Mrs. Downs said she would like more "fine dining with minimal noise and classical music" to come to downtown.
Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood, who also attended the meeting, said revitalizing downtown has been a top goal of his administration. As the county seat, Canton has "an obligation to revitalize" its downtown
"A city is judged by its downtown," he said. "We need [residents] to be part of the festivities and involved in downtown."