Dr. Ben Casella, a Broad Street optometrist and president of D(a)2, said the organization has started a membership drive to get more residents and business owners involved in conversations about the future of downtown.
The group has plans to increase efforts to bring family-friendly events downtown and to have a more visible presence at Augusta Commission meetings and public forums.
“It’s as close to a whole new start for the alliance as we can possibly have,” Casella said.
The group has 90 members. The tough economic climate has made it difficult for many downtown businesses, Casella said, and he hopes that by infusing new energy into the alliance that the community can come out of the tough times.
The membership is made up of both residents and business owners.
“A modern urban area mixes business with residential aspects,” Casella said. “Life evolves, modern towns and cities evolve and if you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
New and improved residential spaces, such as the Emporium or the White’s Building, have drawn more dwellers to downtown, and Casella believes the alliance needs to help make downtown a place more conducive to that, through monthly Downtown Connects meetings and regular involvement in downtown events.
“It’s really the cornerstone of our community,” he said.
Janie Peel, the vice president of the D(a)2 board and a commercial real estate agent with a 15-year history downtown, said D(a)2 has no public funding.
“Sometimes when you need a strong voice, it’s best if no one is paying you,” she said. “We do this because we’re passionate about it.”
The alliance has no particular agenda apart from being a team player in making downtown a better place, she said.
“We’re in it to make it better for everyone,” Peel
said. “It’s everyone’s downtown.”
Residential memberships cost $25 annually, and business memberships cost $75 annually.