Downtown Augusta master planning talks center on transport

Session focuses on bringing people to businesses, venues

EDITOR'S NOTE: A quote was incorrectly attributed to Scott Poag, the project manager for the Augusta Economic Development Authority.  

 

Getting people to businesses and venues was again a focus at a second and final information session on Augusta’s downtown master plan update.

About 20 who attended offered suggestions such as connecting Augusta’s Imperial and Miller theatres with a pedestrian “plaza” in Broad Street and extending the Augusta Common from Broad Street to Ellis Street to increase access from parking spaces on Ellis.

City Director of Planning and Development Melanie Wilson said a “circulator” – a van or bus that circles a few blocks downtown, carrying visitors from one venue to the next – is an important component of the downtown plan. The Augusta Regional Collaboration Project currently funds a trolley bus to provide a similar service on First Fridays, Wilson said.

Others in the group said visitors often are unaware of available free parking in decks, a parking-related concern of several that also came up in a Wednesday session.

If nothing else was gained from the sessions, Wilson said, “we do need to do some advertising about parking that’s free.”

Commissioner Bill Fennoy said the planned addition of 200 apartments somewhere downtown will further strain parking resources.

“At some point in time,” the city will likely need to consider issuing bonds to build more parking garages, Wilson said.

Wilson said ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft might coordinate to bring visitors downtown from certain locations.

Randy Griffith of CSRA Business Lending said he’d seen many downtown business’ books and their greatest need is more “bodies” on weekdays.

One way to do that is for Augusta University to build instructional space at the former Golf Hall of Fame property, he said.

Wilson said the city will take the comments under consideration as it revises the plan during the next 30 days.

The master plan will attempt to coordinate the various other plans – “a bunch of documents,” including a consultant’s streetscape plan to spend Transportation Investment Act funds downtown, a city Recreation and Parks master plan and others – the city also has in the works, she said.

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