Corridor plan gains financing

$1.8 million grant to help further goal

The priority corridor designated in Augusta's new Sustainable Development Agenda received a shot in the arm Wednesday with the announcement of a $1.8 million grant award.

The grant, jointly funded by the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, targets the agenda's "priority development corridor," an area reaching from John C. Calhoun Expressway downtown to the former Regency Mall.

Though the money can't be used to cover the cost of drafting the agenda, for which Augusta paid Boston-based Shields Design LLC nearly $500,000, it will go toward paying designated entities to implement the plan's goals.

The grant's local match includes $750,000 from local-option sales tax funds and more than $400,000 in in-kind services provided by Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission and Augusta Tomorrow Inc., according to grant submission documents prepared on the city's behalf by development-consulting firm Melaver-McIntosh.

The bulk of the grant will go toward creating a detailed land-use plan for transit-oriented neighborhoods bordering the corridor, and for reconfiguring its central roads to make them more pedestrian, bicycle, bus and car friendly, said Augusta Planning Director Paul DeCamp, who helped author the grant submission.

The corridor, which traces 15th Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Deans Bridge Road, is one of Augusta's most centrally located areas, and one of its poorest.

Money also will go toward revising city building codes, development standards and zoning, and subdivision regulations to facilitate the agenda's mixed-use development pattern, DeCamp said. It will also help implement a plan for a land bank to buy properties for redevelopment into green, affordable housing.

The office of Augusta Administrator Fred Russell will administer the grant award.

"We spent half a million on the master plan. It's on the street less than a week and we've got $1.8 million for implementation," said Russell, who announced Tuesday a projected $9.4 million general fund deficit for the coming fiscal year. The grant "doesn't fill holes, but lets us move forward with the plan," Russell said.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he was impressed the city was awarded the funds.

"Competing against cities across the nation, being one of only two cities in Georgia to get funding is a very good thing and speaks to our innovative, sustainable development going on in the city," he said.