The Year in Review: New buildings open to great fanfare



They weren’t cheap and they didn’t happen quickly, but their impact to the Augusta area is expected to be long-lasting and, in a couple of cases, economically huge.

The Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, the Kroc Center and Costco made their debuts within months of one another in 2011. Each opened to fanfare.

The judicial center was the first, with its May 18 dedication. Planning for the courthouse began when Bill Clinton was president, and it took 15 years of political bickering and a taxpayer revolt before it became a reality.

The building’s budget estimate shot from $18 million to $81 million, down to $55 million, up to $62 million and, finally, up again to $67 million. Even the selection of guest speaker at the dedication, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, didn’t come without controversy. Some in the black community felt the ultra-conservative Thomas was a poor choice to dedicate a courthouse named after the first black Superior Court judge for the Augusta Judicial Circuit, who was also prominent civil rights attorney.

The Kroc Center followed with its grand opening nearly three months later, on Aug. 6. The $100 million arts, worship and multipurpose center in the Harrisburg community took seven years to design, plan and build. Sprawled across a 17-acre campus between Broad Street and the Augusta Canal, the 100,000-square-foot complex includes an aquatics center, a performing arts and worship hall, banquet facilities and a long list of other amenities. Many economic development officials believe the center, which is part of the legacy of McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc’s $1.7 billion gift to the Salvation Army, holds the potential to have a significant economic and revitalization impact on Harrisburg and surrounding communities.

Bringing a Costco to Augusta had been in talks since 2007, but construction didn’t begin on the 142,000-square-foot store until June. It held its grand opening at the 100-acre Village at Riverwatch shopping center Nov. 16.

The Augusta Commission spent about $1 million in sales tax money to build an entrance and road into the property.

The commission also committed to give Costco a majority of sales tax money generated by the wholesale store’s sales to help pay back a $10 million loan the developers obtained to finance site preparation costs.

For those incentives, Costco is expected to bring nearly 200 jobs to the area and an expected $135 million a year in sales.

The year in review: Lady Antebellum remembers Columbia County ties
The year in review: Augusta State men's golf team didn't waver in quest for back-to-back championships
Courthouse dedication official
Augusta's judicial center was 15 years in making
Thousands visit Augusta Kroc Center for grand opening
Costco store holds grand opening

The Augusta Chronicle looks back at the big stories in 2011.


SATURDAY: The Augusta State men’s golf team showed its 2010 national title wasn’t a fluke.

SUNDAY: Lady Antebellum didn’t forget its local ties.

TODAY: The Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse, the Kroc Center and Costco opened.

TUESDAY: City Administrator Fred Russell managed to survive controversy.

WEDNESDAY: Richmond County school Superintendent Frank Roberson missed the first half of the school year after emergency brain surgery.

THURSDAY: Suspensions and retirements of top officials made for an eventful year at the Augusta Fire Department.

FRIDAY: Former Columbia County Commissioner Scott Dean was convicted of child molestation.

SATURDAY: Two area law enforcement officers – Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy James D. Paugh and Aiken Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson – were killed in the line of duty.



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