Downtown improvements to start soon

Several downtown improvement projects are slated to get under way in the coming months.

A $2.7 million effort to improve lighting on Broad Street should begin in the next 30 days and a new, permanent stage is planned for performances at Riverwalk Augusta between Eight and Ninth streets, Downtown Development Authority of Augusta officials said at a meeting Thursday.

Streetscape improvements to James Brown Boulevard also are in the works.

The lighting project will stretch from 13th Street to Fifth Street and include new traffic signals, street lights and lights for the parking areas in the middle of Broad Street.

The work will be completed block by block and should be finished by July 2011, said Margaret Woodard, the DDA executive director.

Traffic would be affected because the work will likely mean only one lane would remain open in each area, Woodard said.

A design plan for a new "river stage" is complete, and officials hope the area will be completed as early as December.

Although there is a stage near the Ninth Street section of the Riverwalk, it is a makeshift one made of wooden boards. The stage is now used for the popular Candlelight Jazz series.

"It's a nice little area kind of tucked in there," said David Loper, the owner of Architectural Concepts, who designed the project. "We just want to give it a facelift."

Woodard estimated the stage will cost between $50,000 and $55,000. Its design draws inspiration from nearby Jessye Norman Amphitheater, Loper said.

Members of the DDA Board of Directors approved Thursday diverting $20,000 that had been planned for tree well improvements to go to the stage instead. The tree well project, which adds decorative tiles around the trees, is on the back-burner for the time being.

The stage and improvements to the area surrounding it will help provide more green space downtown, Woodard said.

"It will be nice so people can just go sit and hang by the river," she said.

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