Augusta submits proposal for $5 million Bloomberg grant

The city recently spent $19,000 on a chance to win a $5 million grant for redevelopment efforts in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neigh­borhoods.

Augusta is one of 394 cities competing for money from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge – a competition that looks for innovative ideas for improving city life.

Augusta’s submission focuses on using skilled trade workers to help in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem revitalization.

In 2008, the city began a massive neighborhood initiative in the neighborhoods to replace blight with development. A special 50-year hotel/motel tax that generates $750,000 annually funds the $38.5 million public investment.

On Sept. 4, the Augusta Commission approved spending $19,000 to research, write and submit the grant proposal. A Savannah, Ga.-based strategic marketing team for the project – Melaver-McIntosh – was hired to complete the application.

In addition to a $5 million grand prize, four $1 million prizes will be awarded. Twenty finalists will be selected this fall, and the winners will be announced in the spring.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver said the money won’t go directly toward building houses.

“How can we deploy community resources we already have to help rebuild the neighborhood and help take ownership of the neighborhood?” Copenhaver said.

He said money spent on writing the submission was a wise investment even if the city does not win a prize. The Laney-Walker project, which has already received other national awards and grants, is better poised to apply for additional grants because of work on the Bloomberg submission, he said.

“It took a whole lot of time and effort to get to the submission point,” the mayor said.

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