Laney-Walker, Bethlehem residents see changes as positive

Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant director of the city's Housing and Community Development Department, speaks at a community meeting about the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem projects.



Clara Hornsby wants to know when the bulldozer is coming to demolish houses next door and across the street.

Hornsby, who lives with her husband on Twiggs Street in the Bethlehem neighborhood, doesn’t want to stop the wrecking ball. She’s happy that vagrants won’t have abandoned houses to make their own, but she wants to watch out when raccoons and other wild animals scatter.

“I just want to be prepared so I don’t wake up one morning and they’re gone,” she said.

Hornsby and about 40 others attended a community meeting Tuesday night on the city’s massive investment revitalizing the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods. A special 50-year hotel/motel tax that generates $750,000 a year funds the $38.5 million public investment.

Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant director of Augusta Housing and Community Development, explained upcoming housing construction in four key areas: Wrightsboro Road and Pine, Holley and Twiggs streets.

“We’re definitely happy where we are here in 2012,” Welcher said.

In the next four months, 27 dilapidated structures will be demolished, pending approval from the Georgia State Historic Preservation Division. Some properties will be left as green space, Welcher said.

Hornsby said her block of Twiggs Street is nearly empty. Many former residents have died, and their descendants aren’t waiting for the neighborhood to turn around, she said.

“Some people who lived down there probably won’t come back. They won’t be able to afford to,” she said.

Hornsby, however, isn’t thinking about leaving. Her husband’s family has deep roots in the neighborhood. They live next to the historic W.S. Hornsby House, built in 1916.

The city and the Augusta Housing Authority plan to build single-family homes, duplexes and senior housing around the Hornsbys.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Janet Guyton wanted answers about flooding on Holley Street, which she said became worse when new houses were built. Her home of 15 years is sandwiched between two new houses.

Guyton, who was initially skeptical about the city project, said she welcomes the improvements if they don’t create more problems. She’s even willing to pay higher taxes caused by higher home values.

“If you’re going to build up your neighborhood, you’re going to have to pay,” she said.


Land bank builds inventory for neighborhood revitalization
Lien released, land transferred for Augusta Convention Center parking deck
City department plans new Laney-Walker office building at former nightclub site
Bethlehem redevelopment will save S.S. Johnson and W.S. Hornsby homes
15th Street residents fear development will displace them
Panel favors moving ahead on demolitions
Augusta Commission to discuss possible sale of surplus property
United House of Prayer to join redevelopment effort in Augusta's Laney-Walker, Bethlehem neighborhoods