Harrisburg makeover will precede building

Although construction of the Salvation Army's planned Kroc Center is many months away, the transformation it will bring to Harrisburg and upper Broad Street will begin much sooner.


"The public will start seeing things happening at the site very soon," said Kroc Center coordinator Derek Dugan. "We've now been given permission to begin working on some of the existing structures that can or would have been demolished."

Since December, the Salvation Army has purchased at least 20 parcels in the vicinity of Chafee Park and spent more than $1.4 million on real estate.

Although many of the old homes have been razed to make way for the 85,000 square foot aquatics center and social services complex, a partnership with Historic Augusta Inc., will enable more than a dozen structures to be preserved, he said.

"There are a lot of houses on property we purchased that have historic value, so six of them along Eve Street will be renovated and later leased to nonprofit organizations," Mr. Dugan said.

Seven other homes along Broad Street -- where the Kroc Center's primary building will be constructed -- will be moved to form a "village" nearby.

"We're working on this with Historic Augusta and plan to move and renovate these houses as well, and they can also be leased to nonprofit organizations," he said.

The buildings to be moved -- and those to be renovated in place -- mostly date to the 1920s and are part of Harrisburg's trove of cultural resources that includes important examples of 20th century textile mill culture.

Efforts are also under way to preserve the historic Sibley Chapel, built in the 1880s, that is on Broad Street, Mr. Dugan said. "That chapel will stay where it is, and be renovated as well."

Some buildings, he said, might not be saved.

"There are some newer homes, built in the '50s or '60s, that we're still trying to decide what to do with," Mr. Dugan said.

Erick Montgomery, executive director of Historic Augusta Inc., said preserving old mill houses in Harrisburg is part of a broader effort to recognize the area for its rich and diverse array of historic resources.

The organization has ranked Harrisburg among the city's most endangered historic areas because of the ongoing loss of buildings and the neglect that plagues some existing structures.

The city of Augusta has received two grants -- one in 2008 and a second awarded last week -- that will enable Historic Augusta to hire consultants to compile a survey of the area's history and resources.

"We saw a need to do this in Harrisburg-West End district because there are so many people interested in that area," Mr. Montgomery said.

The grant awarded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Historic Preservation Fund last week was $8,400 and a similar amount was awarded in 2008.

"It's part of our whole strategy to try to help revitalize Harrisburg," he said. "Anytime you're working in a neighborhood and you want to make a stand on something, you have to have good information to back up your claims," Mr. Montgomery said. "A good survey is a good first step."

Kroc Centers are part of the vision of Joan B. Kroc, the widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. Mrs. Kroc, who died in 2003, left a $1.5 billion endowment to establish such centers across the nation and chose the Salvation Army to help implement her dream.

The plan for the Augusta project calls for spending $33.9 million on land acquisition, infrastructure and construction and setting aside another $33.9 million as an endowment for future operations.

That sum -- $67.8 million -- represents the amount set aside for Augusta by the Kroc foundation.

Obtaining that gift will requires a $30 million match from outside sources, and $20 million must be in interest-bearing assets. Mr. Dugan said the capital campaign to generate those funds will be launched later this year.

The design for Augusta's Kroc Center includes a glassed-in main building, with a view of the canal, that would include park and green space areas, classrooms, worship and conference space, offices for dozens of arts and social service groups, a 400-seat performing arts center and chapel, and many other amenities.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.