Team will assess Laney-Walker, Bethlehem for sustainability

Plans to revitalize the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhood were reviewed in January. Efforts to create a sustainability program for the area begin today with a discussion with members of the revitalization.

A panel of experts is eyeing the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods to make a plan that keeps the area’s revitalization efforts on track.

A sustainable design assessment team from the Amer­ican Institute of Archi­tects is conducting three days of workshops and community meetings to develop a sustainability program for the area.

Augusta was one of seven cities that received a grant from the institute for the sustainability program. The $15,000 grant was supplemented by a $5,000 contribution from the city, said Glenda Matute, the urban design manager for APD Urban Planning and Management.

In 2008, the city began a massive revitalization initiative in Laney-Walker and Bethlehem to replace blight with development. A special 50-year hotel/motel tax that generates $750,000 a year funds the $38.5 million public investment. APD is the city’s project manager for the initiative.

“It’s important not only to build new homes, but it’s important to build homes that last a long time,” Matute said.

The panel will examine the neighborhood’s urban design, including the layout of city blocks and how Laney-Walker and Bethlehem connect to downtown and other neighborhoods, Matute said.

Infrastructure will be reviewed to see where improvements are needed and how they can be made in keeping with environmental sustainability. Laney-Walker has issues with sidewalks, sewer and waste management, Matute said.

Land use and landscaping discussions are also on the agenda. Creating jobs in the area will be a topic for promoting economic sustainability, she said.

Community input will be vital to the program’s success and reception by neighborhood residents, Matute said.

The three-day visit begins today with a roundtable discussion with key members in the revitalization including community development corporations, construction companies, city engineers and parks and recreation workers. A public meeting will also be held.

On Wednesday, the panel’s findings and recommendations will be presented at a second public meeting. The city will receive a report that can be used to implement sustainable ideas in the area.

IF YOU GO

TODAY

• Roundtable discus­sions at Tabernacle Family Life Center, 1223 Laney-Walker Blvd., 1-3:30 p.m.

• Community meeting at Beulah Grove Baptist Church, 1434 Poplar St., 6:30-8 p.m.

WEDNESDAY

• Community meeting with presentations on findings at the downtown Augusta library, 823 Telfair St., 6-7:30 p.m.

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