Augusta’s economic future hinges largely on possible redevelopment of Sibley and King mills to support expansion of Georgia Regents University, the city’s mayor said Monday.
At a Kiwanis Club of Augusta meeting, Mayor Deke Copenhaver laid out his top priority for the remainder of his term that expires at the end of 2014.
Converting the former mills into a campus for the university will attract more students, and that growth will drive the local economy, he said.
The mayor told the group he’s adding pressure to move the project forward before he leaves office. “I believe we are at that tipping point and I believe we can get there. I want to leave enough on the ground that bad politics can’t destroy that,” the mayor said.
The mills campuses have received strong support from the Augusta Commission.
“I’ve always wanted to find something in Augusta we can all rally around. To this point, the support has been unanimous at all levels,” he said.
At the end of May, the commission authorized spending $300,000 and use of 1735 Goodrich St., to continue studies and collect environmental data on the mills properties before attracting redevelopment partners and further funding.
Copenhaver also wants to focus on undeveloped land fronting the Savannah River and creating a cultural campus to link the Miller and Imperial theatres with a possible performing arts center on the city depot property on Reynolds Street.
During his tenure, Copenhaver said the city’s economy was supported by major projects including the expansion of Plant Vogtle, the NSA facility at Fort Gordon and the under-construction Starbucks plant. The mills and cultural campuses would maximize the economic growth of the industrial and government sectors, he said.