On Friday, workers were busy removing mold inside the former Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce building, which has been vacant for years.
According to Matthew Kwatinetz, the head of the ARC Project, a combination of $100,000 in city funds and $100,000 from Mayor Deke Copenhaver will be used to renovate the I.M. Pei-designed building in the 600 block.
The concept is “creating a community café and cabaret performance space” to bring in performers and nightlife “that isn’t a strip club,” Kwatinetz said, referencing the nearby adult entertainment district.
The block has had venues come and go, but Kwatinetz hopes the renovated city-owned building will spur development of a downtown “culture and innovation district” to extend from the center to the busier 1000 and 1100 blocks.
“It’s a model that has existed in other places,” Kwatinetz said. “We want to have a hub of activity.”
The center will also provide business-acceleration and co-working space for nonprofit and for-profit entities, along with a “community room” for public meetings, he said.
Renovations are expected to be complete in two months, when Kwatinetz said he’ll move his office into the building. Donors are needed to create a self-sustaining charitable fund to jump-start the café, which will award periodic grants to artists and entrepreneurs elected by café visitors, he said.