Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s idea for a regional collaboration project to spur economic development has its first long-term home in the former Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce building in the Broad Street median.
Copenhaver, who helped secure a $100,000 city budget allocation that was soon matched by a $200,000 commitment from Starbucks Coffee Co., said the move will “add life” back to the I.M. Pei-designed property and to the 600 block of Broad Street, which has mostly vacant buildings.
On Tuesday, the Augusta Commission approved a resolution in support of leasing the building to the ARC Project for $1 a year for five years, with an option to renew for five more.
In a proposal released earlier this year, Copenhaver said the ARC Project will aid the region’s development by giving its technology, military, medical and energy sectors a combined
The resolution states that the building is currently a health hazard but that it will be renovated and used by the ARC Project “to host public gatherings and support economic development in Augusta” until its value is enhanced and the building possibly sold.
Consultant Matt Kwatinetz was a member of the team that scouted the location of Starbucks’ new soluble products plant in Augusta, and he was hired as a consultant for the ARC Project when the company made its contribution. He said the Broad Street location, while symbolic, is by
necessity only the project’s first.
Calling himself an outsider, “policy wonk” and “executor” of others’ ideas, Kwatinetz said he has met with officials regarding additional locations, including in the Laney-Walker community and Regency Mall.
“It has to be multiple locations,” he said. “The hope is for this to be the first of a
Kwatinetz, who projects that his role in the community will last up to 10 years, said he has been in conversations with various groups about Starbucks’ mission of nurturing the areas it inhabits, including helping Richmond County schools.
Commissioner Joe Jackson, one of several commissioners to have met with Kwatinetz behind the scenes on the area’s needs, said he was optimistic.
“I’m willing to put a good bit of faith into seeing what this man can do,” Jackson said.