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Designation could help downtown, consultant says

Consultant speaks about 'slum' designation

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 9:32 PM
Last updated Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 1:13 AM
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A city consultant could hold the key to making sense of a proposal to designate downtown Augusta as a “slum.”

Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

The plan, developed by City Ad­min­istrator Fred Russell and special city counsel Jim Plunkett, went over like a lead balloon when it appeared on a committee agenda. Commissioners and the public were surprised and disheartened by the designation, which most view
as inaccurate given the increasing development downtown in recent years.

As commissioners grilled Russell about the plan at a recent meeting, in the audience was Matthew Kwa­tinetz, a consultant who came to Augusta with the development team for Starbucks’ soluble products plant.

After the meeting, Kwatinetz said the designation could prove to be a valuable tool for downtown, if handled properly.

So far, the move has been presented as simply a way to issue bonds at lower interest rates using Georgia’s Ur­ban Redevelopment Law to remodel the Municipal Building.

Kwatinetz, who has consulted for Mayor Deke Copen­haver’s Augusta Regional Collaboration Project, said he’d worked with similar “but-for” designations elsewhere. Nearly all states have some form of law specifying that public money can be used in private development so long as the development wouldn’t take place “but for” the government investment, he said.

In Georgia, a government’s decision to designate an area as a “slum” affords it additional authority, including the power to use
public funds to spur private development that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

“The idea is, you’re faced with a situation and you want to do redevelopment without raising taxes,” Kwa­tinetz said.

Augusta has already designated the downtown area as a Tax Allo­ca­tion District, allowing new tax revenues above a baseline level to be used to repay redevelopment expenses. Establishing an Urban Re­de­vel­opment Area goes further, setting the tone for development in the area through an Urban Redevel­opment Plan.

Kwatinetz, who also is heavily involved in Augusta’s plan to convert historic textile mills into facilities to support the expansion of Georgia Re­­gents University, said that means heavy footwork. He recently met for a fourth time with Harrisburg stakeholders to garner additional support for the mills project.

In the downtown project, the necessary preparation – compiling inventories of buildings, existing and neighboring plans and engaging community stakeholders – hasn’t fully happened, Kwatinetz said.

“People feel out of the loop,” he said. “The solution to that is this kind of process.”

On the other hand, Kwa­tinetz said the ARC Pro­ject has “done a lot of organizational outreach” and arts outreach downtown in support of the city’s other proposal, a cultural campus scattered through downtown buildings that could meld with the Urban Re­de­vel­op­ment Area.

“You want to organize, get all the stakeholders together” and compile what is effectively a collection of community “asks” for which members agree to the plan, he said.

At least one arts organizer said she is highly impressed with Kwatinetz, a graduate of Harvard and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, according to his résumé.

Brenda Durant, the executive director of the Greater Au­gusta Arts Council, said she was “excited” about the ARC Project.

“I love big thinkers,” she said. “Matthew is someone who’s able to see possibilities for collaborations and partnerships.”

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Riverman1
98677
Points
Riverman1 10/21/13 - 03:21 am
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5
Matthew Kwa­tinetz

I'm impressed with Matthew Kwa­tinetz. His background is striking. The more I look into his past work and educational background, the more I realize what an asset he is to the community. His Harvard and Wharton Business School resume aside, look at Deep Springs College which he also attended for two years. He is certainly knowledgeable enough to present valuable ideas and lead projects. I just hope he stays here.

soapy_725
44507
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soapy_725 10/21/13 - 05:40 am
1
0
Valuable as a tool to "warn" unknowing visitors to stay out.
Unpublished

Valuable as a tool to "warn" unknowing visitors to stay out.

Brad Owens
5068
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Brad Owens 10/21/13 - 07:00 am
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Anyone that supports the "slum" idea...

...loses my support immediately...

I had my suspicions that this "slum" crapola was tied into this guys "big plans" for "collaborations" between "public" and "private" for development. This, like so many other of Fred Russell's ideas, helps the big shot developers in town and sticks the rest of the county with the bill.

Want an interesting story, look into the way a TAD works and why they don't work in a town with a shrinking tax digest or one with stagnant growth. It's a scam.

I am sure "big thinkers"with that resume can help these big shots become gazillionaires at the taxpayer's expense but here in Augusta we simply cannot trust the unethical developers that have directed so many millions into projects that do not accomplish much other than helping developers make money.

I knew this guy was connected to this slum nonsense.

Brad

Willow Bailey
20605
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Willow Bailey 10/21/13 - 11:22 am
5
0
River gets a "STAR" for playing well with others...

Who doesn't want Augusta to grow and prosper?
As exciting as Matthew has painted the picture...we do know the players and the history here.. I liked it until I read..."use public funds for private development".

No accountability with tax dollars is not a smart move "Big Thinkers" should be confident enough in their own ideas and private investors in their own endeavors.

Yes, Brad Owens, all the way on this one.

countyman
22214
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countyman 10/21/13 - 11:48 am
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6
Facts and opinons

No vision= the people perish..

Birmingham and the city of Atlanta once had around the same number of people decades ago.

The urban core of Augusta is the best option for attracting white collar office jobs besides the West Augusta area.

The designation only allows you to offer state tax breaks, and the local citizens don't have to pay for anything..

The renovation of the Municipal building was included, but the citizens already voted for around $20 million for the renovation. The previous commissioners didn't secure all of the funding, and that's why people are now finding out the renovation will cost a lot more.

The facts don't lie and the opportunity zone has worked all over the state of Georgia. Why is the designation good for Martinez but not for Augusta? Martinez is a suburb of Augusta and still attracted Urban Outfitters call center/Carolina Pottery store.

countyman
22214
Points
countyman 10/21/13 - 11:50 am
2
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How can people want Augusta

How can people want Augusta to grow and prosper when some people don't support any single idea?

''Slums are popping up all over metro Atlanta. And right behind those declarations are hundreds of jobs – at least 850 new positions already announced for Union City and Marietta, and another 500 expected this summer in Union City.

At last count, 10 cities and counties in the region declared part of themselves a slum – a necessary step to apply as a state Opportunity Zone. The offending term is part of a redevelopment law that dates back to the 1950s -- when "slum" was part of the lingo.''

The designation doesn't cost cities a cent, but it lets them offer state tax breaks to any businesses in the zone that adds new full-time jobs. The term drew furor last month, when Sandy Springs decided to apply for the program. Residents near the zone worried about the stigma damaging property values and the reputation as the nation’s ninth-most affluent municipality.''
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/metro-atlanta-turns-to-slums-for-jobs...

Willow Bailey
20605
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Willow Bailey 10/21/13 - 11:41 am
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County, no one stated Augusta

County, no one stated Augusta isn't growing or that they didn't want it to grow...just concerned about the process and the blank check without accountability. It shouldn't be an ALL or NOTHING attitude.

countyman
22214
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countyman 10/21/13 - 12:09 pm
1
5
Designation

The designation simply allows you to offer state tax breaks and those incentives will always help attract large employers..

Starbucks, Plant Vogtle, and Bridgestone are GOOD jobs, but what about the high paying office jobs in the CSRA. How can anybody deny the potential for the urban core in terms of attracting white collar office jobs? Do people actually want to see new high-rises or mid-rises built?

Where is this blank check coming from? The only additional money is for the municipal building, and you should blame the previous commissioners for the latest problem. They knew it would cost more than $18 million in order to renovate the entire building, but the Splost vote that passed only included that amount.

The Augusta redevelopment plan includes the Walmart Market, student housing/retail development, bio tech park, etc.

Riverman1
98677
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Riverman1 10/21/13 - 01:54 pm
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1
I'm curious as to what type

I'm curious as to what type industry do you think these white collar jobs would be in?

countyman
22214
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countyman 10/21/13 - 02:41 pm
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2
White collar

Information technology, medical, web design, building contractors, software, banking, architectural firms, engineering firm, etc..

Little Lamb
50521
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Little Lamb 10/21/13 - 02:48 pm
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1
Web

I thought web designers worked from home in their pajamas.

Little Lamb
50521
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Little Lamb 10/21/13 - 02:50 pm
3
1
Jazz Cafe

Are musicians working in Jazz Cafés considered white collar?

countyman
22214
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countyman 10/21/13 - 03:03 pm
1
5
Existing industries

Downtown is already home to existing web design companies.. All of the industries listed above in my previous comment are located downtown already.

Southpoint Media(web design) moved into the Enterprise Mill in June of 2013, and Augusta Lung Associates(medical)/additional businesses are renovating 1301 Broad street to become their new location...

Look at the number of businesses in the Enterprise Mill by itself and the opportunity zone would attract large employers downtown.

http://www.enterprisemill.com/index.php/Current-Tenants.html

Brad Owens
5068
Points
Brad Owens 10/21/13 - 03:32 pm
5
2
Oh where do I begin?

Countyman,

You are 100% WRONG about a few tax breaks being the "only" thing this designation does. You are either ignorant of the actual law or you are purposely misleading people.

Oh, and NOT wanting taxpayer subsidized spending sprees on useless wants while needs are ignored and services cut does not mean I am against growth. In fact, if you got out of my pocket and get out of the tax a spend on nonsense ideas business we might see some private sector growth. I digress.

The County Commission will be delegating to an appointed board the ability to issue bonds for projects WITHOUT a vote due to this "slum" designation. These tax free municipal bonds are based on the county's bond rating but do not count against that rating. So in other words, it is a free candy store for tax and spend folks who hate that pesky taxpayer accountability.

This is an end run around the voters and commission on bond issue so the "bright idea fairies" can get all the bonds they want to fund their projects. This is all part of them trying to get GRU on the hook for the Mills among other things.

This is a scam on the taxpayer, and folks with Harvard degrees and Wharton School of Business credentials don't just hop down to Augusta to "help" out of the goodness of their bond loving, taxpayer subsidized, "non-profit" paid for hearts.

Who is paying this guy and why? That is question number one.

Beware commissioners, be very wary of these guys and their "big ideas"

Brad

countyman
22214
Points
countyman 10/21/13 - 04:21 pm
2
4
Designation

I might be wrong, but I don't think the Mills Campus was included in the redevelopment plan. I thought the GGHF site was included and not the Mills Campus due to Harrisburg already being an opportunity zone.

Sandy Springs decided to move forward with the designation and their one of the richest cities in the entire US. The opportunity zones have attracted private sector growth across the state of Georgia. The only development mentioned among issuing bonds is the Municipal building. The designation is purposely used for providing state tax incentives.. The city of Augusta wants to include the Municipal building, and I made sure to include the renovation of the Municipal building in my previous comments.

The debates related to the use of the word 'slum' or the best way to renovate the municipal building are fine, but the designation must happen.

Five Quick Facts
1. The Chamber of Commerce renovation will spur development on lower Broad.
2. The biotech park increases the ability to recruit high paying jobs into the city.
3. The student housing/retail development will forever change the entire urban core, Richmond County, and metro Augusta.
4. The Walmart Market will force the Kroger shopping center to either be demolished or redeveloped.
5. The designation will bring additional tax base, population, retailers, cosmopolitan feel, etc.

Brad Owens
5068
Points
Brad Owens 10/21/13 - 04:44 pm
3
1
AWESOME!

You completely ignored the FACTS I posted. And do you REALLY want to get into the Sandy Springs ordeal with me?

I know you are just doing your job but you are 100% wrong about the intended use of this SLUM district.

Gage Creed
19796
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Gage Creed 10/21/13 - 06:07 pm
1
1
After reading these

After reading these comments... Pamplona would be a breeze...

Lori Davis
1042
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Lori Davis 10/21/13 - 06:15 pm
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Here are some facts,

Here are some facts, Countyman. Harrisburg was designated and OZ in 2010. Zero has happened with this designation, but funny that in the Annual report to the DCA, which by the way the DCA sent me ,George Patty says that business licensing from 2011 to 2012 went from 271 to 340 in the Harrisburg OZ. Where are all of these businesses? This is a neighborhood. I have asked for these businesses and their addresses in an ORR, going on three weeks now..... Can't begin to corroborate that number. Can't even provide me an answer....Fact. Matthew K. came to Harrisburg to put together a citizen's group(Not that we haven't had half a dozen in the past 5 years). Problem is, He did not seek Butch Palmer nor me out. Guess he was told to steer clear. Big mistake. After the first 4 meetings we found out a bout it. Something very fishy, as was the OZ designation without any public input. Fact...The Harrisburg Implementation Committee put in place by Augusta Tomorrow has no Harrisburg representation. Fact...Matthew Kwatinetz came out of no where and will return to no where when this charade is over.

countyman
22214
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countyman 10/21/13 - 06:34 pm
1
4
Moving forward

The Kroc Center and the buildings associated with the development were built recently in Harrisburg. Is the new Cookout restaurant included in the opportunity zone and the additional businesses on Walton Way?

The MCG foundation plans will bring major changes to Harrisburg when they purchase the bus depot property from the city by the end of 2013.

I would hope Mr. Kwatinetz will seek you out and you will listen to his presentation with open arms.

The Harrisburg neighborhood can't be compared against the CBD either, because the CBD is a lot more attractive to private developers.

Gage Creed
19796
Points
Gage Creed 10/21/13 - 06:37 pm
3
1
Would any of those private

Would any of those private developers be using PRIVATE funding?

A grocery store is going to spur major changes? Really?

Lori Davis
1042
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Lori Davis 10/21/13 - 06:56 pm
3
0
Countyman...Explain the 70

Countyman...Explain the 70 new business licenses, or better yet, explain the 271 first. Lies all around and we in Harrisburg who are educated and smart will not continue to be duped. Don't care about down the road right now. Answer to the lies told last year and are documented with Patty's own signature. Let's start there. Also Mr. K. has not sought me out but I imagine was told to steer clear. Very crafty so far.

countyman
22214
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countyman 10/21/13 - 06:59 pm
1
3
Let's move the city forward!!!

The Walmart market is only an small portion of the entire development.

Lori.. I don't work for the city of Augusta, and you should contact George Patty.

badmoon426
1192
Points
badmoon426 10/21/13 - 07:18 pm
3
1
Countyman/Nortonguy...

...based on your comments on this site as well as your other site, it does make people wonder exactly who are you working the Mayor or some other connected private citizen.

But as Lori Davis pointed out some 370 business licenses have been issued and what does Harrisburg have to show for it. Funny I do not see 370 new commercial storefronts or businesses in Harrisburg. Why?

Because it is being used as a tax dodge...hate to burst your bubble Countyman/Nortonguy.

Lori Davis
1042
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Lori Davis 10/21/13 - 07:17 pm
4
0
George Patty is retired. The

George Patty is retired. The new Gal in his place doesn't have a clue how all of this has happened. She and I have already talked. She is in the dark. Maybe because she is honest and doesn't understand dishonest people for the good of a few, therefore I do not trust you, Augusta Gov't or anyone else brought in here on pre tense.

badmoon426
1192
Points
badmoon426 10/21/13 - 07:23 pm
2
1
As for the Mills Project...

...I thought the Georgia Board of Regents put a fork in that pipedream. To make a college or university a draw you need faculty with national and international recognition as well as grant money for research.

Little Lamb
50521
Points
Little Lamb 10/21/13 - 08:23 pm
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1
Countyman can't handle the truth!

Willow Bailey posted:

. . . we do know the players and the history here. I liked it until I read, “Use public funds for private development.” No accountability with tax dollars is not a smart move.

Willow Bailey is a wise, wise woman.

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