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Mills, cultural campus plans need $1.5 million to proceed

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 7:35 PM
Last updated Thursday, April 25, 2013 12:04 PM
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Advancing Augusta’s plans to develop a Mills and Cultural Campus in support of Georgia Regents University’s expansion will cost about $1.5 million, consultant Matt Kwatinetz told the Augusta Commission at a retreat Wednesday.

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Augusta Commission members Joe Jackson (left) and Marion Williams share a laugh during a discussion of parliamentary procedure at an commission retreat at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park in Augusta.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Augusta Commission members Joe Jackson (left) and Marion Williams share a laugh during a discussion of parliamentary procedure at an commission retreat at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park in Augusta.

The city and the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project have proposed redeveloping two historic textile mills into campus space and other downtown real estate into cultural space, including a performing arts theater and the Artspace project, which launched its survey of artists’ needs Wednesday.

Kwatinetz, an urban economist hired to lead the project created by Mayor Deke Copenhaver, told commissioners at the retreat that the proposal is even larger than GRU’s expansion.

“If this project goes forward as we have proposed it, it is an enormous project,” Kwatinetz said. “Even if GRU expands to its full potential, it is still bigger than that.”

Expected to increase downtown population, attract more business, reduce real estate vacancy and increase the tax base, the proposal would require significant additional planning “to fully vet these projects and attract tenants grants and private partners,” Kwatinetz said in a letter to the commissioners in which he requested the money.

The city won’t be expected to fund the entire $1.5 million, Kwatinetz said, and he asked the city to provide $397,500, with the expectation the project can raise the rest from grants and private partners.

The $1.5 million covers the gathering of additional data on Sibley and King mills; the procurement of tax credit and financing sources; further study of any environmental remediation needed; an assessment of site infrastructure and utilities; and a search for potential tenants and users of the campuses and grant sources to fund the remainder of planning, he said.

Already, groups nationwide have reached out to the project with interest, including the National Development Council, which assists with initial due diligence on tax credits, grants and nonprofit financing, Kwatinetz said.

Georgia Power has expressed a desire to create a solar power installation at the site, “a great vote of confidence,” he said, “that will cost the city zero dollars.”

At their retreat, commissioners spoke highly of the project, part of a larger downtown and citywide development plan.

“When you’re talking about a university they like to call the ‘next great university,’ and I think it even goes beyond that,” Commissioner Alvin Mason said. “I’m certainly going to do whatever I can to help support this project.”

Comparing its impact to Savannah College of Art and Design’s downtown Savannah campus, Mason said Augusta’s proposal will have a positive impact on the entire city and even on the health of downtown residents.

Commissioner Mary Davis said she agreed “with everything Alvin just said.” Although GRU made no public acknowledgement of its interest in the project, Davis said she had heard nothing negative about it from the university or University System Board of Regents.

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Little Lamb
46028
Points
Little Lamb 04/24/13 - 08:02 pm
6
2
$1.5 Million

$1.5 million will be only a down payment; only an installment. The $1.5 million will reveal that there are infrastructure problems (environmental soil cleanup, asbestos abatement, railroad track re-location, new water lines, new sewer lines, new wiring, new roofs, and it goes on and on). Then, Grooo will tell the city that costs to beef up those infrastructure problems must be provided by the city because the university must spend its limited resources on actual educational needs.

This jig is up, folks. Ask your commissioner to reject approval of the $1.5 million dollar study. We've got too many dusty books on dusty shelves of past studies done by "experts" telling Augusta what it needs to spend taxpayer money on.

Riverman1
84078
Points
Riverman1 04/24/13 - 08:29 pm
7
1
Let me get this straight

Let me get this straight, we are going to give Grooo the land, but also have to pay for preliminary studies? On the subject of encouraging artists to move downtown, that should be accomplished by giving tax credits to owners of empty buildings to allow the artists to use them at reduced rents. We don't need to spend millions to renovate a building for the artists.

Gage Creed
17250
Points
Gage Creed 04/24/13 - 09:05 pm
6
2
$1.5M??? I wonder when the

$1.5M??? I wonder when the next wedding is at the Azziz residence...

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 04/24/13 - 10:56 pm
4
3
Private sector

Yes, Let's continue to move this city forward. The great thing about the development is the non profits, and the private sector being involved.

The same people will always continue to hold Augusta back, but you can't spin Georgia Power wanted to get in on the action.

Artspace is a non-profit and the $1.5 million(majority private funding) includes the performing arts center, artspace, mills campus, downtown cultural campus, etc..

The city's contribution of $400k is a tiny drop in the bucket in terms of the return investment.

The great thing about our country is the private sector can spend their money however they choose too.

KSL
129820
Points
KSL 04/24/13 - 11:56 pm
2
1
And to think, I did so much

And to think, I did so much want to move to Augusta from Aiken for a period of time.

KSL
129820
Points
KSL 04/25/13 - 12:00 am
1
1
Hey, countyman, here is for

Hey, countyman, here is for you to brag about. A second Kohls is coming to the area.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 04/25/13 - 01:12 am
2
2
All the pieces are falling into place!

I forgot to mention the Georgia Power solar installation site would be right on time. A private company is getting ready to start on the solar panel farm in Sparta. The metro already includes both SRS and Plant Vogtle. Then Georgia Power might build something in the Augusta Corporate Park(first tenant Starbucks under construction).

This is just one example of growth when you become progressive. Augusta can easily become one of the major energy hubs in the south.

The Board of Regents/Azziz saw the renderings, and they got excited just the public did. The best part is how Kwatinetz is not from this area, and can see Augusta through clear vision. He told the people at Starbucks Augusta was the best choice to open their plant, because of the potential. The current momentum is too much and will force people out of the way if they don't plan for growth now.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 04/25/13 - 01:20 am
2
3
Big changes on the way!!

KSL.. I think people around the city/state realize it makes better sense to expand GRU instead of having two empty mills, and no performing arts center, etc. I'm positive the performing arts center, artspace, upgraded Imperial, renovated Miller, Mills Campus, Downtown Cultural Campus, etc will have you spending more time in Augusta. I'm positive multiple new additions similar to Publix, Anthropologie, local restaurants/boutiques, Gap, Class A apartments, Ruths Chris, upscale/mid range hotels, Old Navy, condos, etc won't be able to stay away. I haven't even mentioned the number of high paying manufacturing jobs in South Augusta or white collar office jobs in West Augusta. The new creative class will take Augusta over the top in terms of attracting private investment.

There's nothing similar to Artspace in our area(majority funded through tax credits: and the rest private/public). Musicians, ballet dancers, painters, mixed-media, photographers, etc in one building(ages could range from 21 to 65 living together). Then you would have multiple businesses related to the development on the bottom floors.
http://www.artspace.org/our-places

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem development shows what Augusta is capable of. Laney Walker and Harrisburg are fighting to become the next revitalization hotspot after Olde Town in terms of the urban core. The recognition from the Harvard Student Journal of Real Estate, New Partners for Smart Growth, Triple Pundit, American Planning Association, American Architectural Foundation, Georgia Trend 'County of Excellence', Southern Living, and Georgia Planning Implementation Award is nice. I like hearing from the locals in Laney Walker even better though.
http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/Neighbors-seeing-community-transform-...

Little Lamb
46028
Points
Little Lamb 04/25/13 - 08:39 am
2
2
Theaters

It wasn't reported well in the Chronicle, but someone made off with a couple of hundred grand or more that was donated to the Imperial Theater for interior renovations. If you go to a show there you will see that it is still tawdry inside.

The Miller Theater is supposed to be renovated by and for the Augusta Symphony (sorry, but I hate that SOA moniker). Maybe it will happen in my lifetime, maybe not.

Now, like a vampire coming back night after night, we are talking about a new taxpayer-funded multimillion dollar performing arts theater being build downtown. Voters firmly rejected that idea in a former SPLOST referendum, so you can bet this new scheme will not involve a referendum, just six votes on the Commission.

Augusta has the James Brown Arena, the Bell Auditorium, the Imperial Theater, the Miller Theater, and the Jesse Norman Amphitheater downtown. A few blocks away is the spacious and beautiful Lambeth Chapel available for rent. And up on the hill is the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater. In south Augusta is the Diamond Lakes Amphitheater. Nearby in Columbia County are the Lady Antebellum Pavilion, Hardin Theater, and Library Amphitheater all jammed together. They're having a bluegrass music event out at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion this weekend. And let us not forget the Etheridge Center over at USC-Aiken.

We are covered up with performing arts spaces — taxpayers don't need to fund another one!

Gage Creed
17250
Points
Gage Creed 04/25/13 - 10:56 am
2
1
Some folks have never met a

Some folks have never met a devlopment that they didn't think was a game changer.... those same folks typically have their hands in the cookie jar... Ohhh...now we are an energy hub...(Oy Vey)

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 04/25/13 - 12:40 pm
1
2
Moving forward

Arenas, amphitheaters, or theaters are different from performing arts center. Amphitheaters for example are open air, and Diamond Lakes doesn't have one.

The GRU expansion included the Nederlander organization with the performing arts center. People love to help out cities doing great things around this country. The size, quality, regional status, ability to attract people from outside of the CSRA, etc of the new performing arts center won't be comparable to any of the existing facilities.
http://www.nederlander.com/index.html

SRS, Plant Vogtle, solar panel farm in Sparta, two future Georgia Power developments, Strom Thurmond Dam, etc. Is this not an energy hub?

Sweet son
10415
Points
Sweet son 04/25/13 - 12:48 pm
1
0
No one said anything about the pic of Jackson and Williams.

Hard to imagine Jackson could/would laugh with Williams since Williams is still out to get him, G. Smith and Guilfoyle.

Riverman1
84078
Points
Riverman1 04/25/13 - 01:40 pm
2
0
Sparta? Columbia is close as

Sparta? Columbia is close as Sparta is. Anything there will have little effect on Augusta.

Gage Creed
17250
Points
Gage Creed 04/25/13 - 02:10 pm
2
0
Riverman1 you beat me to that

Riverman1 you beat me to that Comment regarding Sparta.... and countyman...SRS doesn't generate commercial power do they?

Fiat_Lux
15429
Points
Fiat_Lux 04/25/13 - 02:40 pm
1
0
I'm fascinated that Georgia Power

wants to put up a solar power installation where flowing water already generates electrical power for the enterprise being considered.

Riverman1
84078
Points
Riverman1 04/25/13 - 02:48 pm
1
0
Georgia Power also has a coal

Georgia Power also has a coal fueled power plant in Gray, Ga.

Little Lamb
46028
Points
Little Lamb 04/25/13 - 03:37 pm
1
0
Solar

Georgia Power does not want to build solar plants particularly, but the twisted tax incentives are such that they have to start building them. The cost of solar power is still much higher than nuclear, hydro, coal and natural gas.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 04/25/13 - 03:31 pm
2
1
Keep moving forward

The Atlanta Business Chronicle made sure to mentioned the city of Augusta in terms of the solar farm.

''San Francisco-based Ecoplexus Inc. plans to develop a six acre solar panel farm near Augusta, according to a public filing.''

http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/blog/atlantech/2013/04/san-francisco-...

Aiken County
29% of workers commute out Mostly to these counties
10,269/Richmond
1,664/Columbia
1,643/Lexington

In the immediate future the second largest employment center for Aiken County residents commuting will be metro Columbia(Lexington county). Suburban Columbia(Lexington) is doing much better than Columbia in terms of attracting good jobs.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 04/25/13 - 03:41 pm
1
1
Every single day!!!

The same few people always complain about how bad Augusta is, but turn right back around to complain when the city tries to improve... The same few people also brag about living in Columbia County, or how they can't wait to sell their property in Richmond County.

Do some people actually think the Nederlander Organization, Artspace, National Development Council, etc are interested in every single city especially the size of Augusta?

Why are people complaining about Artspace(majority funded through tax credits)? Every city in the US would love to have this project, and Augusta is very fortunate.

Where are the private developers or non profits wanting to buy the empty buildings in the CBD for local artist?

What's stopping any private developer from purchasing the empty mills?

Augusta will easily get left behind if the plan is to continue waiting for the owners of empty buildings to move Augusta forward. The same buildings who have been sitting empty for decades lol(i.e Woolworth building on Broad). Tax credits already exist in the area, but you still need the money in order to move forward. Artspace is a major non profit, and can take advantage of certain things such as tax credits.

Fiat_Lux
15429
Points
Fiat_Lux 04/25/13 - 03:50 pm
1
0
I'd love to live in downtown Augusta.

I once lived in downtown Savannah and it was absolutely wonderful. Of course, that was quite a while ago, and things are definitely not as safe there as they were.

Augusta isn't as nice as Savannah, of course, but it still would be nice to live down there, and a lot closer to work. Still, it's not safe enough yet for families the way Savannah was, and there aren't enough productive, prosperous types living there to crowd out the ne-er-do-wells who scare the living daylights out of my young'un.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 04/25/13 - 04:23 pm
1
2
Downtown Augusta is on the rise!

I do agree that downtown Savannah is nicer, but Richmond County is a better place to live overall compared to Chatham County. I would disagree in terms of the CBD being less safe compared to downtown Savannah years ago. 95% of the crime you hear about taking place 'downtown' actually happens in East Augusta, around 15th street near Sunset, Bethlehem, etc.

The CBD, Olde Town, and Waters Edge do have the prosperous residents already living there. The CBD is richer than North Augusta, and gaining on the Martinez area.

Even the area of the Harrisburg neighborhood facing Summerville is not bad off. Harrisburg and Laney Walker are both still going through the transition stage.

Gage Creed
17250
Points
Gage Creed 04/25/13 - 06:56 pm
0
0
Countyman Let's compare the

Countyman Let's compare the CBD and say....Hammond's Ferry or River North shall we? Countyman as always tries to stack the deck and "enhance" his viewpoint. He wants to compare a neighborhood to city rather than to another neighborhood. You notice that he will never compare the CBD to Aiken, SC.

Fiat_Lux
15429
Points
Fiat_Lux 04/26/13 - 09:26 am
0
0
I understand, C-man

I'm not sure I agree that Richmond County is a better place to live overall than Chatham County. I think that's way too broad a statement to have much meaning. I have seen the creeping decline in both counties over the past three decades, and it is distressing to say the least.

I also understand what you are saying about where crime generally is located in the CBD. The problem is that when something happens on Broad Street, ie, some pathological moron sprays a crowd with bullets, it rivets the attention, as it does when someone is abducted at gunpoint and raped in Harrisburg. Even if it only happens a few time a year, as compared to the weekly invasions/break-ins/muggings/shootings/etc. that happen in what you are designating as the crime areas, it keeps people with children and other safety concerns from feeling like those areas are appropriate for their familes.

True story, this: a family who are friends bought a second home in Harrisburg, the nicer part of Harrisburg east of Walton Way, and turned it into a very nice, but not ostentatious, bungalow. Because they have a child with special needs who can be independent and strike out on their own at times, they have had to return to their other home for their child's safety. Though perfectly capable of navigating around the neighborhood and going to the store, this child simply is too vulnerable to the predatory element in that area, even though there are many, even mostly, fine people living there. Just a few badies can make a neighborhood a bad place to live. If they can't be removed or otherwise dealt with effectively, the neighborhood doesn't get better.

A neighborhood's reputation is not unlike a woman's. Once tarnished, it's very, very hard to restore.

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