Augusta Commission approves new designation to avoid 'slum' and target city-owned properties

'Slum' term axed; property focus changes

Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 8:09 PM
Last updated 11:31 PM
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Accompanied by his attorney, Jack Batson (left) Timothy Lowery, owner of Skittlez Bar and Grill, was revoked of his alcohol and business licenses Tuesday.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Accompanied by his attorney, Jack Batson (left) Timothy Lowery, owner of Skittlez Bar and Grill, was revoked of his alcohol and business licenses Tuesday.

A controversial plan with an uncertain impact on downtown Augusta is getting a makeover.

Augusta commissioners voted 8-0 Tuesday to revamp a proposed designation of nearly 600 acres in the Central Business District as a “slum” in favor of a more limited project with more public input.

The designation, intended to allow the city to issue $26.5 million in tax-exempt bonds to finance renovations at Augusta Municipal Building, angered most of the commission and many of their constituents when it appeared on a September meeting agenda.

A new plan approved by the commission Tuesday, however, will incorporate only a handful of city-owned properties and will avoid using the term slum, which Jim Plunkett, special city counsel over the project, said he could work around.

City Administrator Fred Russell said he was contacted by the Augusta Coliseum Authority about including James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium in the designated area for potential benefits available to those facilities.

Russell also suggested including Fort Discovery and the city’s “pension” property at Fifth and Reynolds in the contiguous district. Fort Discovery owners have confirmed that an office-use tenant may create 400 jobs,

These properties were included in the revised plan.

Other properties commissioners agreed to include were the former Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce building in the 600 block of Broad Street median; the former main Augusta-Richmond County Library, currently being remodeled as Augusta Utilities offices; and the 500 block between Greene and Telfair streets.

The arena and auditorium “definitely” ought to be included, said Commissioner Alvin Mason, who made the motion for the revised plan.

Once commissioners agree on the boundaries, a rewritten development plan will go before the public for input at a hearing, Plunkett said.

“We also need to have a hearing where this governing body is apprised of what is going on before reading about it in the media,” Lockett said. “We need to know what the big picture is going to look like.”

Proposed uses within the new area that would benefit from the designation might include a proposal to convert a railroad bridge at the pension site to a pedestrian crossing or constructing a parking deck or law enforcement substation, Plunkett said.

“I think it’s an excellent outcome. It’s going to allow for a public hearing; they’ll see our plan. It’s not ambiguous, it’s defined projects and properties,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said. “If we had done this from the start, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now.”

Downtown business owner Mike Walraven, who has spoken out against the plan, said he was OK with limiting the designation to publicly-owned properties. “I’ve got no problem with that; just leave the privately-owned alone,” he said.

Commissioners Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle were absent when the vote was taken.

In another matter, the commission voted 6-4 to revoke the alcohol and business licenses of Skittlez, a gay black nightclub on Gordon Highway.

Commissioners Bill Fennoy, Marion Williams, Mason and Lockett voted no.

Skittlez was already on probation for an earlier incident involving a minor and an unpermitted dancer. Club attorney Jack Batson argued the city’s alcohol ordinance was too vague.

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nocnoc
42470
Points
nocnoc 11/05/13 - 10:07 pm
5
2
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

We already know, even the Politicians officially call Downtown Augusta a Slum now.

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 11/06/13 - 12:38 am
2
6
Excellent

The GGHF site(GRU property owner) and Watermark site(city of Augusta proper owner: pension property) are the two most important parcels in the entire CSRA, and have to be included.. Both can change the face of the entire metro area in terms of growth potential. The biotech park and student housing/retail projects are both great ideas for the GGHF site. The mix of residential, office, retail, and the pedestrian bridge all make sense for the Watermark site.

I'm glad the city is moving forward, because we desperately need to help the private sector help us. The private/public partnerships that helped create the new landscaping along Wheeler rd, Alexander, Saint Sebastian, etc are great additions. When is the city going to start the major push for sidewalks, landscaping, and bike lines on the majority of major roads in order to help attract the private sector? The TSPLOST and other GDOT projects will help improve the roadways, but you still need the nice landscaping after the construction.

The 400 jobs at the Discovery Plaza will instantly increase the amount of residents, retail stores, tax base, grocery stores, residential developments, etc in the CBD and Richmond County. The additional foot traffic right next to the Riverwalk provides the opportunity to pump new life into one of the city's top local attractions...

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 11/06/13 - 12:42 am
2
6
Watermark site

''Proposed uses within the new area that would benefit from the designation might include a proposal to convert a railroad bridge at the pension site to a pedestrian crossing or constructing a parking deck or law enforcement substation, Plunkett said.''

Get rid of all of those ideas except from the pedestrian crossing.. The next parking deck should be located between Broad/Walton Way(near the library, judicial center, James Brown Arena, Bell) and must include RETAIL or OFFICE space on the bottom floor/floors.. The city should renovate one of the vacant buildings on Broad street instead of building a new law enforcement center in the CBD. The other possibility could involve building a new multi-modal transportation center(main depot already in progress for South Augusta) that includes the substation.

The best idea for the pension property includes the city acquiring grants and bringing the private sector/local philanthropist all together to build the performing arts center. Then let the private sector build the high rise/mid rise residential, renovate the train depot(commercial), high rise/mid rise office buildings/hotels, etc in order to create multiple urban nodes downtown(smart growth)... The creative class/high tech companies will love Augusta even more if we had the Artspace building/performing arts center to go alongside of the growing high tech community, Artist Row, Arts in the Heart, Westobou, etc.

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 11/06/13 - 05:44 am
6
1
Focus On County, Not Old City

The focus of the county should be on helping the areas that have shown hope and progress. The county has spent enough in the old city and should cut its losses.

Concentrate on helping West Augusta attract more investments as it has been steadily doing over the past decade. The hotels around I-20 get nothing from their hotel taxes they generate. It's time for that to change in recognition of the realities of their contribution.

Also, support South Augusta with its mega industry pouring money into the county coffers. It appears the county does things backwards by throwing money into the least productive area.

seenitB4
86958
Points
seenitB4 11/06/13 - 06:51 am
3
0
Well now

Edging toward the center ....heh

Well at least you are saying you need public imput..that is a mouthfull.....& you do.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 11/06/13 - 08:03 am
0
0
A slum by any other name is still a slum.......Mo Town, Mo Slum
Unpublished

A slum by any other name is still a slum.......Mo Town, Mo Slum

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 11/06/13 - 08:04 am
0
0
A nuevo eclectic artsy commune in the middle of a urban slum????
Unpublished

A nuevo eclectic artsy commune in the middle of a urban slum?????

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 11/06/13 - 08:05 am
0
0
The Bohemian District of Detroit of the South. LOL LOL
Unpublished

The Bohemian District of Detroit of the South. LOL LOL

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 11/06/13 - 08:07 am
0
0
By nature, bars must have smoke. Like back room politicians.
Unpublished

By nature, bars must have smoke. Like back room politicians.

Brad Owens
4423
Points
Brad Owens 11/06/13 - 09:17 am
5
1
Still a bad plan because it spends MILLIONS more we don't have.

You all need to remember that the entire purpose of this exercise was to be able to spend another $40,000,000.00 of taxpayer money on renovating public buildings!

STOP SPENDING PLEASE!!!

I am against any plan that takes us further in debt period.

This "renovation" in not needed and given the economic outlook of our county, its unemployment rate, its shrinking tax base and education system it is irresponsible.

Brad

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7718
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 11/06/13 - 09:32 am
4
0
Maintenance

Until they learn the definition of that word it will just be throwing money away. Like buying a car and never changing tires, oil or putting in gasoline!! They are just going to buy a used car!!! Maintain what you have and it will return that investment to you! How can the ARC confiscate property under the "Demolition By Neglect" statutes when they are just as guilty of doing the same thing on their own properties?????

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 11/06/13 - 09:54 am
3
0
Homegrown not forced

Why do yall want to put the money into the JB Arena and the Bell? Do you think upgrading the snack bar will prompt Jay-Z or some other mega-Act to break Augusta off? They are fine as is. Let the private establishments that exist build up to that point. You can't fake authenticity so until there is a dire need for more investment in the two venues, let the Sky Cities and Theatres take care of the entertainment. Until there is more draw to downtown, rehabing those two is a waste of money and effort.

Athens had the 40 Watt and the Theatre for many years before they built the Classic Center. I think they know a thing or two about an entertainment district. .02

harley_52
23272
Points
harley_52 11/06/13 - 10:38 am
2
1
The City Should Be The Focus...

The CSRA is just another name for AUGUSTA in the minds of many/most people. Those from outside a fifty mile radius refer to the home of the Masters, Fort Gordon, any of the major hospitals in the area they say "Augusta," not "Hepzibah," "McBean," or "Evans."

Businesses are attracted here because of the benefits Augusta has to offer. Those benefits include potential customers, potential employees, labor union situations, living conditions, taxes, quality of life, etc.. They won't be drawn to Augusta if they perceive Augusta to be another Detroit.

The path to freedom from debt for the city is to attract new businesses which will bring jobs, growth, and tax revenues. Smart government leaders will be those who can attract new growth to pay for improvements to local infrastructure, not run the local citizenry deeper into debt through neglect and mismanagement.

harley_52
23272
Points
harley_52 11/06/13 - 10:45 am
1
0
Nepotism....

Anybody know the ARC policy regarding nepotism in ARC government employment practices?

If so, anybody know if it works?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7718
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 11/06/13 - 11:25 am
1
0
Nepotism

I believe that's a job requirement! If you're not related you don't get hired!!

harley_52
23272
Points
harley_52 11/06/13 - 12:00 pm
1
0
" If you're not related you don't get hired!!"

Thanks.

That confirms a suspicion I have developed.

Sweet son
10372
Points
Sweet son 11/06/13 - 01:31 pm
2
0
Hey harley, most people don't even know what CSRA means!

If you are one who doesn't know check the AC archives for Professor C C McCollum! Also check Bill Kirby's videos. I believe he did one on this subject not too long ago.

Sweet son
10372
Points
Sweet son 11/06/13 - 01:50 pm
2
0
CSRA

I found Kirby's video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHy2gjOxm5w

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 11/06/13 - 04:05 pm
1
5
Move Augusta forward

The voters approved $18 million for the municipal building already. The Bell serves a distinct purpose(smaller venue) and can use the upgrades, but the JBA should be demolished. The city spending a couple million every 10-15 years to improve the arena is wasting money and only holding up the progress.

The main problem with the Augusta area is the division some people want to create. The subject can revolve around Richmond County vs Aiken/Columbia(mainly Columbia) or the areas inside Richmond County like the CBD vs South Augusta..

How can the metro compete against Columbia or Greenville if Richmond County and Columbia County don't even work together?

How can South Augusta grow much faster than presently without leveraging the benefits of the CBD?

The facts won't change no matter how much the city invest into certain areas. The CBD/urban core is the best chance to attract white collar office jobs other than maybe West Augusta... The CBD won't be able to attract the same type of high paying manufacturing jobs similar to South Augusta or East Augusta either.

Many companies prefer to build in urban areas compared to suburban places. If the city only focused on West Augusta then were missing out in terms of additional businesses.

Why do people think everybody can work at Starbucks/Rockwood in South Augusta or Bridgestone in Graniteville? The funny thing is many of these people live in Columbia County which doesn't hardly offer any large employers.

The Enterprise Mill has attracted Rural Sourcing and Southpoint Media recently. The Augusta Lung Associates/other businesses are remodeling the building at 1301 Broad.

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 11/06/13 - 04:59 pm
1
1
If a new arena is paid for

If a new arena is paid for entirely by Richmond County it should be built out I-520 somewhere due to availability of land, roads and parking space.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 11/06/13 - 05:14 pm
2
1
Depot Property

Countyman's idea of a taxpayer-financed performing arts center on the old Augusta Depot property is a bad one. If a multi-million dollar theater was built there, it would be a crushing blow for the Imperial Theater and the Miller Theater (soon to be renovated under the auspices of Augusta Symphony).

Since downtown has a functioning arts theater for plays, ballets, concerts, movies, receptions, etc. at the Imperial and soon will have a state of the art acoustic hall at the Miller — let's put a wooden stake once and for all in the idea of city taxpayers paying for a new performing arts theater.

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 11/06/13 - 05:38 pm
2
1
Don't Forget the Maxwell

LL, don't forget the Maxwell Theater at ASU.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 11/06/13 - 06:12 pm
1
1
Maxwell

The Maxwell Performing Arts Theater is an excellent venue. I understand that the rent is a little pricey, and that's why the Augusta Symphony left several years ago.

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 11/06/13 - 07:31 pm
1
4
PAC

The population of metro Augusta was 575,000 in 2012 and the CSRA is home to over 700,000 residents.

The performing arts center would help both the Imperial and Miller theaters. The interest in the local arts community instantly grows when the building breaks ground which improves the quality of life. The same people interested in renovating the Miller want a state of the art PAC($100 to $120 million). The PAC creates additional buzz across the US and brings attention to the city. The people who end up contacting the city about the new PAC can also learn about the Miller coming back to life.

I'm positive the city, local philanthropist, private sector, and grants can make this become reality.

Gage Creed
17203
Points
Gage Creed 11/06/13 - 08:30 pm
1
1
FACTS are pesky things!

"The same people interested in renovating the Miller want a state of the art PAC($100 to $120 million)."

Good... let those people pay for it... and the Miller too!

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