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Columbus riverfront building could be model for Augusta site

Officials look at riverfront schools

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 8:08 PM
Last updated Thursday, April 5, 2012 7:21 AM
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As Georgia Health Sciences University officials contemplate how to develop a 16-acre tract of riverfront property in downtown Augusta, a good example already sits in Columbus, Ga.

Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., has a separate RiverPark Campus downtown that houses courses in its arts, history and geography programs.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., has a separate RiverPark Campus downtown that houses courses in its arts, history and geography programs.

The Georgia General Assembly voted last month to give the former Golf Hall of Fame site to the University System of Georgia, pending Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature. The system’s Board of Regents asked that it be given to GHSU, which is merging with Augusta State University to form a new regional research university.

GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said he would look to other universities that have a strong riverfront presence. One he mentioned specifically was Columbus State University.

The 8,300-student school has a separate RiverPark Campus downtown, six miles from its main campus, that houses its College of Arts, with art, music, theater and communications students, as well as history and geography programs, CSU President Timothy Mescon said. The programs work in tandem with other city features downtown – the Schwob School of Music is housed entirely in the RiverCenter, the city’s performing arts center, and the astronomy program is housed in the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, also on the Chattahoochee River front.

“Many would argue that a key driver behind the gentrification of the riverfront and what we call Uptown Columbus, which is really downtown Columbus, has been driven by the extraordinary partnership between the university, the city of Columbus and the private sector,” Mescon said.

The university has been a “catalyst” for what could be roughly $750 million in investment in the area during the past 15-20 years, said Richard Bishop, the president of Uptown Columbus and the business improvement district.

By the end of summer, the university will also have student beds downtown, Mescon said.

“Folks will tell you that having our students not just study downtown, but live downtown, has changed the whole complexion,” he said. “They just add to a different kind of vibrancy of campus life there, which I think is great for this community.”

It might also help the university toward its goal of enrolling 10,000 students a year. For instance, for the past three years the RiverPark campus has hosted ThesCon, a high school theater student convention that draws about 3,000 a year, and it is paying off, Mescon said.

“Our theater program has tripled in enrollment,” he said. “Students come, they see our facilities, they act on our stages, they get a feel for downtown, which is why we are building new housing downtown, because it is just a neat attraction for a certain segment of students.”

The Chattahoochee itself is about to transform as a white-water project comes to fruition next year, which will add 2.5 miles of white-water rafting through the riverfront area and officials said would be the largest urban white-water course in the East. They hope new tourists will not only be lured by it, but by the riverfront area and historic district downtown.

“It’s a pretty cool scene,” Bishop said.

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rmwardsr
525
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rmwardsr 04/04/12 - 08:37 pm
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Gee, I can't wait, White

Gee, I can't wait, White water rafting in downtown Augusta.

raul
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raul 04/04/12 - 09:19 pm
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Sounds like a plan!

Sounds like a plan!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/04/12 - 10:11 pm
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A white water course is very

A white water course is very possible as I've written about before. It doesn't cost that much to build inflatable, controllable rapids. They are actually adjusted to create the desired course.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/04/12 - 10:18 pm
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The most widely respected

The most widely respected evaluation of med schools done by med students has a category to rank the location of the school and its environment, including safety. GHSU ranked on the bottom the last time I looked. I am sure Dr. Azziz has this information and would like nothing better than to improve that perception.

What better way to change the location problem for students than to create beautiful housing on the waterfront with ASU and GHSU students combined with appropriate facilities for recreation, entertainment and dining? This is a fantastic opportunity for GHSU and ASU. Dr. Azziz gets it, I'm sure.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/04/12 - 10:50 pm
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Well, you can forget putting

Well, you can forget putting the astronomy department down there. The light pollution downtown is terrible and getting worse.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/04/12 - 10:57 pm
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Let's face it. The new

Let's face it. The new Merged University (MU) does not really need a new college, a new dorm, a new classroom complex, a new research lab, a new parking deck, a new athletic complex, or anything else.

By a shrewd ploy of asking the unthinkable, Dr. Azziz got a gift of 18 acres of land just for the asking. I say, just take your time, Dr. Azziz. Don't rush.

But the first thing you should do is demolish that serpentine brick wall. It is so foreboding and unfriendly as a gateway into our fair city.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/04/12 - 11:02 pm
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MU needs to come up with a

MU needs to come up with a grandiose plan for the entire block such that they can use eminent domain to take the land where the title pawn shop sits.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 04/04/12 - 11:04 pm
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I think it depends on which

I think it depends on which way you think the block goes. Up and down or crossways.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 07:51 am
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They need to merge the

They need to merge the universities first. Get you some nifty organization charts, graduate some students from MU, then think about the gift of land. Instead of thinking about what could be done with the land, think about what MU actually needs. It very well might be different than what Columbus State needed.

Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 04/05/12 - 08:17 am
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We are lucky to have as prez

We are lucky to have as prez of our town's university a man of Rick Azziz's intellect, vision and boldness.

Hopefully, our myopes won't be successful in their attempts to run Dr. Azziz out of town.

debby
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debby 04/05/12 - 08:27 am
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As an avid whitewater

As an avid whitewater kayaker, I would love to have a whitewater course built in Augusta. As a teacher, I am able to live in Western North Carolina during the summer, and travel there regularly the rest of the year on weekends to enjoy my sport. If whitewater was available here, (not counting Hammonds Ferry rapid on the Savannah), I might not travel quite so often. There are many professional, high salaried people who are also kayakers and a whitewater course would bring those people to the area, where they would then spend their money in the community.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 08:37 am
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Wouldn't the whitewater

Wouldn't the whitewater rafting course mess up the drag boat races and the rowing regattas? Not to mention the recreational motor boaters down there. . . .

paperhearts
99
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paperhearts 04/05/12 - 08:57 am
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Geez louise, can't we get

Geez louise, can't we get excited about anything in this town. Every article on the chronicle have sour and hateful comments. I live downtown and can tell you downtown residents are excited about this endeavor for Asu/GHSU. We support Dr. Azziz fully, because honestly it's the first time we've heard truthful common sense in a long time.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 09:12 am
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Good point, paperhearts.

Good point, paperhearts. Hey, what do you think about my suggestion that MU tear down that foreboding wall once the deed to the property is transferred. That wall is not a welcoming sight to visitors in our town. It is a symbol of separation, like the Berlin wall.

Tear down this wall, Dr. Azziz!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 09:13 am
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Also, Dr. Azziz needs to

Also, Dr. Azziz needs to begin a frontal assault on that one remaining parcel that sits on the corner where the serpentine wall had to go behind. He needs to buy that parcel for MU.

Riverman1
84012
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Riverman1 04/05/12 - 09:21 am
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As I've been saying forever,

As I've been saying forever, college expansion around the downtown area is the way to make dramatic improvements. This is a fantastic opportunity that I sincerely hope is not sidetracked by the cabal with their desire for a stadium.

On another subject that I'm also absolutely sure of. The whitewater course is feasible and would also change the downtown area remarkably bringing in enthusiasts from everywhere and creating spin-off business. How can I explain it? Don't laugh at my analogy, but it's like creating a mountain everyone wants to climb right in the downtown area.

Whitewater courses are built using inflatables that can be adjusted depending on the course desired. From what I've read the cost would be about $2 million. That's chickenfeed for the business it would generate.

Riverman1
84012
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Riverman1 04/05/12 - 09:23 am
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Debby, great post that

Debby, great post that explains to the public the interest in whitewater.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 10:19 am
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Actually, the GGHoF was on

Actually, the GGHoF was on decent financial footing until they hired an executive director. The slow drain began at that time.

Follow the Money

countyman
20129
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countyman 04/05/12 - 10:27 am
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Whether Dr. Azziz includes

Whether Dr. Azziz includes the multi-use facility remains to be seen.. I'm positive some form of private investment will be used in the future..

I also find it funny people want an whitewater course, and taxpayers would have to pay for it.. I'd rather the city get involved in public/private partnerships similar to the mayor's previous request before GHSU/ASU were included.. The city paying for their portion sounds much better than paying for everything..

Riverman1
84012
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Riverman1 04/05/12 - 10:31 am
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A football field in a

A football field in a baseball stadium would be bush league. No self-respecting college would do such a thing. Dr. Azziz has to do something to improve the med students perception of the location of the campus. This is an opportunity.

As far as the whitewater cost, we spend more than that on studies.

Riverman1
84012
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Riverman1 04/05/12 - 10:33 am
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Countyman, dorms and other

Countyman, dorms and other type housing with a performing arts facility with restaurants and maybe a store or two would be great. Don't you think?

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 10:56 am
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You would have to call the

You would have to call the restaurants "dining halls" and would have to call the stores "bookstores" because the state government mandated no commercial activities until the bonds are paid off.

Now, if Ripken were to swoop in and pay off the bonds from private funds, we could start talking deal here.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 11:02 am
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Actually, the city already

Actually, the city already has whitewater kayaking in the Savannah River, it's just not downtown. It's upsteam a ways on the fall line — between the Savannah Rapids Pavillion and the city water pumping station.

Downtown, the Savannah is not a river at all. It's a small lake backed up by the Lock & Dam. Downtown, the Savannah needs to remain quiet water. Upstream is where the whitewater action is.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 11:06 am
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Riverman, MU already has a

Riverman, MU already has a very nice performing arts center on the Hill Campus. It's the Maxwell Performing Arts Center. The university does not need another.

Remember the credo: build something Merged University needs, not something just because it's possible or because it's cool.

tckr1983
360
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tckr1983 04/05/12 - 11:07 am
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Columbus State University...

Columbus State University... Whitewater rafting... Why are we trying to be Columbus, Ga of all places?!?!? At least aim for Columbus, Ohio! For ONCE in this town, think unique and big!

Riverman1
84012
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Riverman1 04/05/12 - 11:34 am
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LL, well some kind of

LL, well some kind of performing arts venue was mentioned by Azziz is why I mentioned it. Also that alumni center they wanted land for has to go somewhere so I suspect it will end up there, too.

Riverman1
84012
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Riverman1 04/05/12 - 11:40 am
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LL, I've been through the

LL, I've been through the white water up the river. Nice if the level is right, but not exactly enough to draw outsiders. Manmade rapids have systems to create flow. But sure, you could make the course up the river, but the idea is to brainstorm ways to rejuvenate downtown Augusta.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 11:45 am
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Well, if all you want to do

Well, if all you want to do is put some inflatable pillows in the water between 10th St. and 6th St. for the kayaks to bump into, then have at it. The water won't be white, though. It's a lake.

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 04/05/12 - 11:50 am
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Riverman wrote: . . . the

Riverman wrote:

. . . the idea is to brainstorm ways to rejuvenate downtown Augusta.

Countyman keeps on telling us how vibrant and hip the downtown scene is now. Margaret Woodard keeps telling us it's so bustling that there is no parking available and she needs to put in parking meters to make money off all the cars.

Maybe, as Dichotomy says, we would do better to rejuvenate (or just juvenate) a different part of the county.

eb97
835
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eb97 04/05/12 - 11:57 am
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Riverman, I agree with you.

Riverman, I agree with you. This city needs a new direction with vision and I believe Dr. Azziz has it in spades. He has far more vision than our current mayor that is stuck in the mindset of, "build a ball field and they will come." These ball fields are not money makers for taxpayers, they are money takers. We need a new direction for our city.

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