Projects included that were already in the planning stages are the Kroc Center, Judicial Center, East Central Georgia Regional Library, Sutherland Mill, Underwood Homes Redevelopment, Laney-Walker residential development, Trade Exhibit and Event Center and the St. Sebastian Way Roadway.
Camille Price, the executive director of Augusta Tomorrow, which oversees the 2009 Master Plan, acknowledged in an e-mail that these projects “were in the early planning stages, but not yet built when the Master Plan was unveiled in February 2009.”
She said Boston-based Icon Architecture Inc., which completed the plan costing $286,000, included these projects in the list because they “were considered so important to the urban core.”
Price said several of the plan’s remaining projects have been started, and some completed, since the plan was unveiled. They include the Wheeler Road gateway improvements, Sand Bar Ferry gateway improvements and Harrisburg’s Turn Back the Block housing renovation project.
Most projects are still in the planning stages.
“It takes much pre-work before a project is considered viable, and the projects in the Master Plan are large and complicated, requiring thoughtful and comprehensive analysis before pre-development conversations can begin,” Price said. “There is activity happening in each of the downtown districts that are in the assessment stage of development.”
THE 2009 MASTER Plan divided downtown Augusta and North Augusta into seven districts. “Key market creation projects” were also identified.
There’s no set timetable for completing the projects. Price said Icon did not recommend a timetable because each city and project are different, making it difficult to predict which projects should come before others.
Price also said she couldn’t estimate the overall cost to complete the Master Plan because she didn’t have proposed amounts for all of the projects, but the estimated cost for the Market Creation projects is more than $1.5 billion.
There are 68 projects in the 2009 Master Plan.
Though projects have been proposed, there’s a possibility some might not come to fruition. Of the 20 “first priority” projects in the 1982 master plan, seven were not completed in the plan, which covered two decades.
“Because this is a plan, and it’s not set in stone, there may very well be, over the years, projects that don’t work anymore for the city center, and additional projects that will happen that we will absolutely have to have,” Price said.
CHATTANOOGA, TENN., HAS become a model for cities nationwide interested in learning how to successfully execute a long-term plan. A city comes every month to visit, said Kim White, the president and CEO of River City Co., an organization created in 1986 to focus on achieving the Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan’s goals of revitalizing downtown and reconnecting downtown to the river.
After starting its master plan in 1986, Chattanooga opened a $45 million aquarium in 1992. This 25-year plan was completed, and five years ago the city started another plan for its waterfront, which has since been finished.
White said the key to Chattanooga’s success has been having an organization with employees focused solely on completing the master plan. River City Co. was funded by $12 million from foundations.
“Early on, the community identified the fact that unless someone was tasked with making that plan become a reality, it wouldn’t. Downtown redevelopment is a long process. It’s not easy. Unless there is one organization with that being their sole job ... we bring groups together to figure out how we can pull together to make these things happen,” White said.
AUGUSTA’S 2009 MASTER Plan called for a development coordinator to be appointed, but Mayor Deke Copenhaver and Price said funding is not available for this position.
The development coordinator would be a city employee, unless the position was contracted out, Copenhaver said.
“I think it would be very helpful to do in the future,” Copenhaver said. “It’s just a question of when you have budget issues with the city, as we do right now, making that a priority. That’s got to come from the will of the commission to do that.”
John Shields, owner of Shields Design LLC and formerly of Icon Architecture Inc., still recommends the development coordinator and said Columbus, Ohio, and Chattanooga have achieved success by having one.
While Augusta Tomorrow has had some “measured success” using volunteers, Price is only one person trying to lead many volunteers in complex projects, Shields said.
“I think Augusta would be well-advised to look into investing in a downtown development corporation, somebody that’s going to make projects happen,” Shields said.
THE ECONOMY WILL also play a role in the success of a master plan, White said. Even with its success, she said, Chattanooga has had difficulty in the past three years getting funding for downtown housing.
Monty Osteen, co-chairman of the Westobou Crossing and Higher Education District and former president of Augusta Tomorrow, said the condition of the financial market has slowed progress on financing projects for the 2009 Master Plan. Osteen also worked on the 1982 plan.
“We had a much more viable economic recovery going on from 1982 to 1984 than we do now,” Osteen said.
Still, he’s optimistic about potential developers with the consolidation of Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University.