Officials tour Augusta to learn about city’s downtown revitalization efforts

Margaret Woodard, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority of Augusta, presents a video hghlighting downtown to participants of the Heart and Soul Downtown Workshop held in Augusta on Thursday. JOE HOTCHKISS/STAFF

What’s driving downtown Augusta’s revitalization? City officials from across Georgia visited here Thursday to find out.

 

More than 20 public- and private-sector representatives interested in downtown development gathered at the Augusta Riverfront Center for the Heart and Soul Downtown Workshop.

Sponsored jointly by the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation, the workshops are held each year to more deeply explore the “hearts and souls” of downtown areas throughout the state. A main goal is to inspire revitalization efforts in other communities, and to better inform the people and groups most likely to invest in such projects.

During the seven-hour event, participants reviewed some of the how-tos of economic development strategies and incentives, and discussed and in some cases personally toured ongoing downtown projects.

The group was scheduled to visit the recently renovated Miller Theatre; the Augusta Regional Collaboration meeting space and business incubator at 600 Broad St.; and the Escape Room Program at the Augusta Museum of History.

Roundtable discussions touched on local streetscape projects funded by the one-cent Transportation Investment Act sales tax; the Film Augusta initiative to encourage movie and television production in the Augusta area; and the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem neighborhood revitalization, begun after the city approved long-term funding for the project in 2008.

Chris Higdon, manager of community development for the Georgia Cities Foundation, said he was looking forward to learning more about the Laney-Walker project, and about the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Training and Innovation Center that is taking shape on Reynolds Street.

He added that successful downtown revitalization doesn’t always mean something big.

“A lot of downtown development has a lot of small pieces a lot of times,” Higdon said. “You have all the small businesses and small-scale developers that are doing these projects that are not as large as the Cyber Innovation and Training Center, but you don’t transform an area like downtown Augusta without all those small pieces.”

Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or joe.hotchkiss@augustachronicle.com.

 

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