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Business owners fight back against perception of Harrisburg

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Augusta’s Harrisburg neighborhood has become synonymous with crime and bad landlords, but some local business owners are intent on turning the tide of public opinion.

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Gary Richardson recently remodeled Sparkle Car Wash in Harrisburg because he believes in the area, he said.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Gary Richardson recently remodeled Sparkle Car Wash in Harrisburg because he believes in the area, he said.

Butch Palmer remembers Craw­ford Avenue in Harris­burg as a thriving thoroughfare when he was a child, with interior decorators, doctors’ offices, antique stores and other businesses lining the street. Those businesses are almost all gone, but Palmer recently opened 606 Salon as a part of his efforts to revitalize the area.

Palmer has gained notoriety for his activism for the neighborhood, and he ran for the Augusta Commission in 2009. He says the neighborhood has had issues with crime in the past but that it has experienced dramatic improvement over the past year.

“It’s a different neighborhood from a year ago, it’s really cleaned up,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of positive changes and a lot of improvement.”

Palmer had a salon for 15 years but closed it in 1997 to devote more time to managing his properties in the neighborhood. After many requests from old customers, he decided to re-open. He isn’t worried about getting enough business.

“I’ve been really well-received,” he said.

In June 2010, the Harris­burg/West End area was declared a state opportunity zone in an effort to attract businesses to the area and encourage existing ones to expand. The designation makes a $3,500 income tax credit available to businesses for each new job created in the zone.

George Patty, a project director with the city’s planning and zoning commission, said the response has not been overwhelming.

“We knew it would be slow,” he said.

Businesses that apply for the tax credit go directly to the state, so Patty has no way to track the number of jobs being created. He said the quiet response was no surprise, but that the credit is still a way to encourage and support business in that area.

“It’s just another tool in the toolbox,” he said.

Lori Davis, the president of the Harrisburg Neighborhood Asso­cia­tion, said business investment is a waste until law enforcement makes large-scale changes to the way crime is prevented and discouraged.

“Eventually, the neighborhood will be different, but I don’t know how long that’s going to take,” she said.

Panhandlers, prostitutes and drug-dealing are some of the crimes Davis listed that keep the neighborhood from blossoming.
Until something is done to stop the offenders, she has little optimism for businesses’ success.

GARY RICHARDSON recently remodeled his Sparkle Car Wash at Walton Way and Craw­ford Avenue, and while Davis said she’s grateful for the support Richardson’s investment shows, she’s concerned for him.

“We’re happy, of course, that he is in our area,” she said. “I hate to see him just lose his shirt down here.”

Richardson said he has no intention of leaving Harrisburg, and that he invested in the car wash because he believed it would be a success.

“I don’t see it as an undesirable area,” he said. “The issues that Harrisburg has become famous for are probably going on everywhere, it’s just not as publicized.”

Richardson has owned Sparkle Car Wash for more than 15 years, but until recently it was just a drive-up car wash with vacuums. He says he has sunk a considerable amount of money to turn it into an express car wash with more features and a slicker design, and even has an attendant present 12 hours a day.

“I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t believe in the area,” he said.

It’s a small percentage of residents that cause most of the headline-getting trouble, Richardson said, and it’s not fair to the rest of the community to manage his business in fear of the troublemakers.

“They deserve the services everybody else around town gets,” he said. “These good folks deserve places to eat, service centers to get their oil changed and businesses nearby.”

LARRY LESSER HAS OWNED Broadway Bait & Tackle on Broad Street for more than 30 years, and he says he hears from customers all the time who are concerned about crime in the neighborhood.

“It’s perceived as a bad neighborhood,” he said. “But this area really is not any more or less dangerous than downtown.”

The Kroc Center is bringing more people from other parts of the area, and Lesser hopes the traffic will provide a more honest idea of the neighborhood. A new stream of people coming through is a potential source of revenue that could bring in more businesses, as other areas with Kroc centers across the country have seen, he said.

“In San Diego, it made a huge difference,” Lesser said. “Where there was a crack house, there’s now a Starbucks.”

The key, he believes, has a lot to do with home ownership and the gentrification of the area in general.

“I want more businesses down here, but what has to happen first is people wanting to live here,” he said.

But will people want to live in a neighborhood with few businesses?

“It’s really a little of both, I guess – sort of a chicken-egg thing,” he said.

Lesser believes that day is coming, and he recently renovated the outside of his shop in good faith that the area will soon be known more for being a close neighborhood than a crime center.

“It’s already a lot prettier than it used to be,” he said. “I want to be in a position to be ready when the positive change comes.”

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bclicious
676
Points
bclicious 11/06/11 - 11:35 pm
0
0
INVEST IN FIREARMS! Also,

INVEST IN FIREARMS! Also, consider selling firearms at your local businesses!

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 11/07/11 - 03:38 am
0
0
Kudos to the Butch Palmers,

Kudos to the Butch Palmers, and the Gary Richardsons , and the Larry Lessers of Augusta. They aren't afraid to put their money "where their mouth is".
It's such a shame though,that upper management of the RCSO,namely, Ronnie"I'm not a social worker" Strength,has been slow in embracing community policing.
A policy which would be most advantageous in neighborhoods such as Harrisburg.He's had many (MANY) years to get it done. It hasn't happened.
Hopefully,with the upcoming elections, others CAN get it done.

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 11/07/11 - 05:54 am
0
0
"In June 2010, the

"In June 2010, the Harris­burg/West End area was declared a state opportunity zone in an effort to attract businesses to the area and encourage existing ones to expand. The designation makes a $3,500 income tax credit available to businesses for each new job created in the zone..."

Hmmmmm, I would like to know more about this. What type of tax credit?

Brad

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 11/07/11 - 06:18 am
0
0
Larry Lesser is a great guy

Larry Lesser is a great guy and he hit the nail on the head, "home ownership and the gentrification of the area in general" must happen to really bring about changes there.

That would mean less giverment supported housing and more tax paying real home owners. More Landlords and less slumlords; more single family houses too.

And of course Lori hit the nail on the head, we need direct law enforcement action taken by our "three coins in a fountain" Sheriff's Dept. I call them that because they can run down a person who steals less that $2 out of a fountain in Sueery Center (owned by relatives of the Mayor) but cannot seem to get the crime under control in Harrisburg.

Priorities, we need to adjust ours.

Brad

Riverman1
82260
Points
Riverman1 11/07/11 - 06:18 am
0
0
Yeah, I like that "Three

Yeah, I like that "Three Coins in a Fountain" description of our Sheriff's Office, too.

Strength has distanced himself from the community. He says he's not a social worker and that displays his incomprehension of community, preventive policing. The strip clubs are the only places that get that type of policing. Wonder why?

Riverman1
82260
Points
Riverman1 11/07/11 - 06:40 am
0
0
Harrisburg is a diverse

Harrisburg is a diverse neighborhood where the criminal element meets the decent citizens. Our Sheriff’s Office has a philosophy that the bad people only kill each other and things are perfectly safe in Augusta. Last year when the city was setting murder records, they had their media spokesperson go into great detail to explain the racial make-up of those who have been killed and bring up their pasts.

Augusta had two young women shot in the head and they explained these women messed with the criminal element and so on. In other cities if you had outright prostitutes on the street being murdered, there would be an uproar. Here we get rationalization that matters are fine if you are on the Hill or some other all white community.

Augusta has a minority white population these days. I suggest the Sheriff’s Office start to work with the majority of the citizens because that makes it safer for everyone. I say let Strength come to Harrisburg. He should be among the people daily, accessible to all, not just the strip clubs owners.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/07/11 - 07:40 am
0
0
Riverman I hope you are wrong

Riverman I hope you are wrong about the Sheriff's Office philosophy. That's a very sad generalization if so.

seenitB4
85392
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seenitB4 11/07/11 - 08:08 am
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The Broken Window Theory at

The Broken Window Theory at work here....
congrats to the owners of the shops.....a nice Starbucks would be great....things do change believe it or not......

ps to riverman...Fleming will come around too...just wait & see.:)

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 11/07/11 - 08:50 am
0
0
Location, location, location.
Unpublished

Location, location, location. Harrisburg land will become more valuable because of it's location.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/07/11 - 10:05 am
0
0
I just don't get it. City

I just don't get it. City politics are so messed up for Harrisburg, you have to wonder if they have their own plans for the area.

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 11/07/11 - 11:21 am
0
0
Oh Willow, don't let the cats

Oh Willow, don't let the cats out of the bags yet.

Lori Davis
905
Points
Lori Davis 11/07/11 - 11:37 am
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First,Those of us who are

First,Those of us who are determined to stay in Harrisburg and tough it out are pleasantly pleased when businesses open in and around the area. We appreciate Gary Richardson upgrading his business with a full car wash and attendant. This has helped immeasurably because the attendant is able to stop a lot of the madness that used to go on in that business. It has been a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. Secondly, it is going to be vitally important that in the 2012 Sheriff's race we vote someone in who embraces the Community policing concept and also Commissioners that are willing to fund it. Richard Roundtree, whom the Harrisburg BOD met with recently, agrees with this concept wholeheartedly. Lastly, I agree with Willow. Their must be plans that those of us who live in Harrisburg are not privvy to. It should not be as hard as it has been to get this area cleaned up. I would say, too much money being made in the variuos avocations that are allowed to operate year after year. A friend told me the other day that a deputy had said,"Ms Davis has been in Harrisburg long enough to know what it is all about. She just needs to move." With comments like this, I say the 2012 Sheriff's election can not come soon enough.

Riverman1
82260
Points
Riverman1 11/07/11 - 02:02 pm
0
0
It's time for Ronnie Strength

It's time for Ronnie Strength to retire. He's getting up there in age and has problems. He has been given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and has kept all the associations of his mentor, Charlie Webster.

An outsider is needed as happened when Columbia County elected the Army Military Policeman years ago. He made such an impression cleaning up things, they named the building after him....Otis Hensley. Ditto Lincoln County.

Linda60
0
Points
Linda60 11/07/11 - 05:03 pm
0
0
I was raised in the

I was raised in the Harrisburg area, Ronnie Strenght was also. It was a great place. Sleep with doors and windows open take long walks. Had neighbors who cared about each other. It once was an can be again a great place. The right people just need to step up.

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