Renovations are nearly complete and Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s Augusta Regional Collaboration Corp. is looking for individuals, nonprofits, businesses and other groups to inhabit the former Chamber of Commerce Building in Broad Street’s 600 block median, with a move-in date in August or September.
ARC, granted a five-year lease of the I.M. Pei-designed structure for $1 a year, is looking for food and beverage vendors, groups to hold meetings in a “community room,” performers and tenants seeking office, educational, studio and other space, according to the ARC Project web site.
ARC Director Matt Kwatinetz, who arrived in Augusta with Starbucks’ new soluble products plant, said he has already heard from seven or eight individuals and groups interested in using one of the spaces. He said he is seeking many more and wants to learn as much as he can about each user’s needs to further configure the space for maximum use.
“We want it to be filled as many hours as possible,” he said. “From pretty much early in the morning to a reasonable hour at night, during weekdays. We’re just trying to have a lot of activity on the street … It creates a different environment on that side of Broad Street.”
The response will show whether interest, for example, is “skewed young” or “older and independent,” and guide ARC as it further outfits the building and allots space to individuals and groups, Kwatinetz said.
One of the findings made by an Augusta Downtown Development Authority retail survey funded by the DDA and private entities was a “need to improve the metrics” of people downtown both day and night, and ARC hopes to use the building to do that, he said.
Inside the unusual building, plans called for four work spaces for two or three; two one-person offices; two project rooms; an “accelerator” room for 10-12 people; two “spontaneous collaboration zones;” eight reservable co-working spaces; a lounge; and an education center.
The renovations were funded through a $100,000 city allocation and private sources.
Starbucks plant personnel volunteered their time at the site in May.
Steering ARC, which also is responsible for Copenhaver’s mills campus proposal for Georgia Regents University, are five board members: Copenhaver, DDA Director Margaret Woodard, Augusta Development Authority Director Walter Sprouse, Starbucks plant manager Rob Beattie and Jesse Wiles, the head of APD Planning and Development, the primary consultant on Augusta’s Laney-Walker and Bethlehem redevelopment project.
According to ARC’s Web site, it is also seeking a public affairs manager, vendors, contractors, partners and interns to staff the headquarters.
Applicants can apply through the mayor’s office.