Hotelier balks at moving center

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Developer Courtland Dusseau says he's not interested in building a Hyatt hotel downtown if James Brown Arena's exhibition hall becomes the trade, exhibit and event center site.

Taking the city's $20 million on hand and using it to renovate the arena was proposed by former Mayor Bob Young in a letter to the editor published Sunday in The Augusta Chronicle. The idea has since been gaining traction, and Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason says

it warrants serious consideration.

Mr. Dusseau, a managing partner for Alabama-based Legacy Hospitality, plans to build a $25 million Hyatt Place Hotel & Business Center on Reynolds Street near the current TEE center site. The Augusta Commission voted to put it there in 2007, but this year the board has split along racial lines over whether it should be funded for $38 million with a $12 million to $17 million parking deck, and how to balance it with a $37.5 million deal to fund revitalization of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods.

The hotel is on hold now, Mr. Dusseau said, with he and property owners still hopeful the commission will reach a resolution.

The developer said his concept hinges on the TEE center being near the Savannah River, the existing convention center inside the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites and the Augusta Common, which the Hyatt would abut. Were the TEE center in James Brown Arena, conventioneers would have to be transported to and from their hotel rooms.

"It just doesn't make sense," Mr. Dusseau said. "It's not thinking of the guests."

He said the Augusta Common could be used as expanded event space. Out-of-towners would want to be near the shops, restaurants and bars on Broad Street, and James Brown Arena is just too out of the way , he said .

"They have the best site where it is," Mr. Dusseau said.

Mr. Young said where the TEE center goes should be decided by the community, not by a developer. The Reynolds Street site can't get six votes on the commission, he said , and he doesn't think that will change after the November elections.

"What I'm trying to do is advance the discussion of the TEE center," Mr. Young said. "When you're dealing with a political climate like we have here, you better have some options."

Convention attendees often move around by car , Mr. Young said, and James Brown Arena is within walking distance of the river. The arena area is poised for a comeback with the new judicial center going up on Walton Way. Trees could be planted to block the unsightly power substation nearby, and maybe a quiet zone could be established so trains don't blow their horns, he said.

Mr. Mason said the civic center's parking lots are big enough for both a hotel and a new deck. Another developer could be recruited, or perhaps Mr. Dusseau's mind could be changed if he were offered tax incentives and free land, he said.

"Everything's worth talking about ," Mr. Mason said.

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Riverman1
93725
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Riverman1 10/01/09 - 03:41 am
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Young also gave the World

Young also gave the World Congress Center in Atlanta as an example of an exhibition hall not near the hotels. That is false. The WCC is right on Centennial Park near the biggest convention hotels. A short pleasant, safe walk. I've attended conventions headquartered in the Omni and walked to the WCC many times. To assume guests at hotels on the Riverwalk would find their way across town to the JB Arena is unwise. Come on, Mr. Mason, you spent time in the Army, like many of us, and I trust you. You went to law enforcement when they tried to bribe you. Straighten all this out and let's get the thing built in the right place.

WhippingPost
1
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WhippingPost 10/01/09 - 04:48 am
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Riverman, it's 5 city blocks

Riverman, it's 5 city blocks to the arena, not across town. Building a hotel between the arena and the river would shorten the distance. As far as a safe walk goes, Augusta is a subsidy town. Going out your front door isn't a save walk. While Mr Young's idea might not be the best, it doesn't need to include pouring more taxpayer money down the bottomless pit of Bethlehem and Laney-Walker, a separate problem that also needs addressing. The all or nothing approach leaves us where we are now, divided along racial lines and at a standstill.

Junket831
0
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Junket831 10/01/09 - 04:59 am
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If the votes aren't there to

If the votes aren't there to build the right TEE Center in the right place, then DON'T build it. The most successful location would be next to several hotels and restaurants. The JBA doesn't offer that and won't even if you build a new hotel adjacent to JBA. The notion that hotel guests are going to drive several blocks is nuts. Make it pedestrian friendly. Stop promoting driving. The city would have to provide free shuttle/bus service to downtown sites and this would not be as successful if you just build it in the right place to begin with. If the Commission can't come to agreement, then don't build it. Just return the money or ask the voters to earmark it for something else.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11036
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 10/01/09 - 05:08 am
0
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I go out of town frequently

I go out of town frequently for training and seminars. I do NOT stay where I have to walk more than a block or drive to get to the venue.. I should not have to pay for parking at the hotel and the venue also. That is a large influence on my decision of which seminars to attend and a large consideration of the people planning and setting up events.

shivas
2
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shivas 10/01/09 - 06:00 am
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Dang, I agree with cold

Dang, I agree with cold peanuts. Shoot me.

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 10/01/09 - 06:11 am
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Folks this is all a moot

Folks this is all a moot point.....it's just never going to happen this is after all augusta we're talking about.

ripjones
2
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ripjones 10/01/09 - 07:00 am
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Got to agree with Junket831

Got to agree with Junket831 on this one. As I said yesterday, and was said by WhippingPost today, this town is not safe enough to think that someone will walk multiple blocks from hotel to Convention Center. But what I also don't want to do, is give another penney to Lainey-Walker. I have not seen one benefit from the money that has already been poured into that area. For this to continue, it tells me that someone has nude pictures of somebody's sister.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11036
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 10/01/09 - 07:29 am
0
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Taxpayer monies have been

Taxpayer monies have been poured into the Laney-Bethlehem area since the 70's and no improvements are lasting there. Make the people living and owning property there accountable for it. Make them spend their money....

moneyman1035
0
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moneyman1035 10/01/09 - 08:03 am
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Bob Young ... what is he even

Bob Young ... what is he even doing now? But I agree the convention center should be closer to the river and the nicer hotels... who wants to walk 5 blocks through the nieghborhood that JBA is? not me. But I also agree the commission wont ever agree.. but I have a question, what is so great about Laney Walker? are there thousands of people wanting to move there or visit or what are there new business wanting to locate there? why dont some developer come in and buy the property and start a revitilization program? I am sure I will get blasted for this but I have been around since 67 and I see more racist blacks than i see racist whites, and talk about unfair advantages, look at any state or local govermental agency there are 5 blacks to one white.

FedupwithAUG
0
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FedupwithAUG 10/01/09 - 08:38 am
0
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Hey if they put it buy JBA

Hey if they put it buy JBA then the people at the soup kitchen there can peddle the convention goers. This in turn will increase beer sales and therefore tax revenues. A win-win situation.

jjp816
0
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jjp816 10/01/09 - 08:40 am
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I like how Bob Young thinks

I like how Bob Young thinks the "community" should make the decision on where to put the center. I guess he is assuming that developers will just go along with that decision no matter how bad it is. WRONG! The developer will only build his hotel if the TEE center is in the right place for him to be successful. He and every other developer know that the area around the James Brown Arena is a black hole for development. I personally think that sinking any more money into the JBA is insane. I wish the council could come together and actually accomplish something good for the city instead of watering it down to try and please everyones political leanings only to create a failure.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 10/01/09 - 08:55 am
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Shark!! What hooey. They

Shark!! What hooey. They aren't really considering the Arena for a TEE Center alternative. Focus. Anyone reading this will say what a stupid place to put a hotel let alone a convention center. Instead you should still be saying "Do we NEED a TEE Center?"

sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 10/01/09 - 08:57 am
0
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The developer, Courtland

The developer, Courtland Dusseau, has more sense than Bob Young and the commission. I guess that goes without saying.

Fiat_Lux
16440
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Fiat_Lux 10/01/09 - 10:07 am
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I can't begin to say how much

I can't begin to say how much I would like to oblige you, Shivas (7:00 am)

SnowBallCity
2
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SnowBallCity 10/01/09 - 11:42 am
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"Convention attendees often

"Convention attendees often move around by car , Mr. Young said". That's an assumption that can not be made. I've gone to plenty of conventions where no car was provided (a.k.a. an added expense that the employer did not want to make) and only hoped that some local sites were within walking distance because I think it's odd that I would pay to rent a car out of my own pocket when on convention. When local sites weren't nearby, I stayed in my room (a.k.a. a bad/boring experience). While I wouldn't mind walking around Augusta's downtown if I was a conventioneer without a car, there are people that don't take to walking for whatever reason (health, etc.). Aside from that, would you rather have your room be on the 10th floor of a building located next to the Savannah River or by the JBA? Like it or not, the Savannah river is one of Augusta's "sites to see" and would be a novelty to anyone coming in from another part of the country. If it's near the JBA you're not using what you've already got as an attraction. And you're right, in the end, if the developer doesn't get what they want then they just say "No" and all these "options" were just a waste of gray matter.

Riverman1
93725
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Riverman1 10/01/09 - 01:22 pm
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It appears most would rather

It appears most would rather the TEE not be built if it is to be built near the JB Arena.

APiratesLife4Me
0
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APiratesLife4Me 10/01/09 - 02:08 pm
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I agree Riverman. What I

I agree Riverman. What I don't understand is why anyone would entertain the thought of an upscale hotel on the back side of town near the civic center. It would be a windfall for the low lifes...lot's of people to mug and cars to break in to.

imdstuf
10
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imdstuf 10/01/09 - 03:34 pm
0
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Focus people, the point is

Focus people, the point is not to get onto Bob Young, even if he is off the wall. The point is we do not need a TEE Center as it will not work well in Augusta. Conventions go to larger cities with more to offer. Sorry, but you have to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Augusta is only a destination spot during Masters.

SnowBallCity
2
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SnowBallCity 10/01/09 - 03:58 pm
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imdstuf . . . That's an

imdstuf . . . That's an awfully dismal outlook. Let's just roll-up the sidewalks the other 51 weeks of the year then and go back home to Atlanta. We'll just open up Augusta during that one week . . . kind of like the fair.

disssman
6
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disssman 10/01/09 - 04:54 pm
0
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Snowball now is your time to

Snowball now is your time to shine. Start by listing all the family things to do on Reynolds street or downtown while the family is visiting and the kids are getting antsy. Now include things like 6 flags, coca cola, movie theaters etc in your list.

Boogaloo
1
Points
Boogaloo 10/01/09 - 06:27 pm
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Augusta has a lot of

Augusta has a lot of potential and I do mean "potential" but it is not there yet. What are a lot of people going to do downtown on any given night? I don't see people who live in the area right now flocking to any "amusement" or interesting venue on a regular basis. If you have conventioneers or guests at the local hotel you have to have something that will make them want to be there. What does Augusta offer in that regard? Please do something that will bring the locals in and the tourists will follow.

JohnQPublic
5
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JohnQPublic 10/01/09 - 08:35 pm
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Good grief! We need some new

Good grief! We need some new blood in ARC to help make some solid decisions! Enough of this baloney with the commissioners and ex mayors. These folks can't see the forest of opportunities for the trees! I enjoy downtown and there is so much potential for growth and for an enjoyable place to spend time and money. Wake up commissioners. Lead, follow or get the heck out of the way!

OIC
25
Points
OIC 10/01/09 - 08:38 pm
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Tell Bob Young to keep to

Tell Bob Young to keep to himself. He is a quitter. We don't need his help.

Riverman1
93725
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Riverman1 10/01/09 - 08:56 pm
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0
There's a misconception about

There's a misconception about conventions in midsized cities such as Augusta. They do work. You don't attract national conventions usually, but you bring in state and regional ones. Hotels are cheaper. I've attended a convention in Fayetteville, NC where there were over a thousand people. Golf, running and events at Ft. Bragg were arranged. I had a blast in addition to not charging my company a fortune for the meeting. With MCG, Ft. Gordon and the SRS sponsoring meetings, the TEE will be kept busy.

CWV
0
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CWV 10/01/09 - 09:57 pm
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Don't count on SRS for

Don't count on SRS for conventions...the current M&O contractor can barely keep the place running. They've spent all kinds of money with no cost controls. DOE is not happy with them and I would expect that DOE might penalize them again, just like the last time they took a couple of million from them.

I agree that the TEE Center is a dumb idea. Downtown Augusta is a joke. A bunch of bars and a few foods joints, but no real night life. If you go below 8th st. you're taking your life in your hands. Smart conventions and meetings will not come to Disgusta.

bigalsc
4
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bigalsc 10/05/09 - 11:16 am
0
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If we want to see improvement

If we want to see improvement in Laney Walker, let's build the TEE Center in the right spot (at the River)to provide jobs for the residents.

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