The Association County Commissioners of Georgia has named Augusta-Richmond County as a 2012 “County of Excellence” for redevelopment work ongoing in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods.
Augusta, the only consolidated government named in the category, joins Camden, Cherokee, Habersham, Gwinnett and Clayton counties in being honored. Augusta maintains memberships in both the commissioners association and the Georgia Municipal Association, which represents Georgia cities.
“We did fund the project in an innovative way,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said of the redevelopment initiative in an interview with Georgia Trend magazine. “We increased our hotel/motel room fees by $1 a night and used those monies to invest in the neighborhood, which will be $37.5 million over a 50-year time frame.”
In 2009, Augusta commissioners approved funding the redevelopment project contingent on also funding the new downtown Trade, Exhibit and Event Center.
Chester Wheeler, the director of Augusta Housing and Community Development, which is managing the project, said the historically black neighborhoods’ proximity to Georgia Health Sciences University was a strong selling point.
“That’s 14,000 people that work in that medical environment very close to Laney-Walker/Bethlehem,” he told Georgia Trend.