Residents fascinated at showing

People at Augusta Technical College check out blueprints for Richmond County's $1.1 billion master plan for revitalization.

Would Ed Bowman like to see an Augusta with landscaped roadways, thriving retail sections and highway corridors packed with businesses providing jobs?

"Of course I would," said the Augusta resident and commercial property owner. "Augusta has always been known for one big thing: the Augusta National. Let's let the world get a peek at something else than the Washington Road side of town."

Bowman's hunger for a grander city was fed Thursday when planners for the Augusta Sustainable Development Agenda revealed details of the $1.1 billion facelift of Richmond County.

"I'm excited about it," Bowman said. "I just hope they see it through."

John Shields, the president of Shields Design LLC that designed the plan, presented a blueprint of changes for the urban, suburban and rural sections of the county to about 150 people at Augusta Technical College's auditorium.

The master plan that was 16 months in the making drew mostly positive feedback from audience members, but also raised questions about the realism of such an intensive overhaul.

"The plan is brilliant ... it's a masterpiece," said David Penix, an attendee and the owner of an Augusta commercial real estate firm.

Penix said the recovering economy in Augusta provides an open door to build new homes, parks, infrastructure, roadways and cleaner neighborhoods, which are all outlined in the master plan.

Those ideas need to be sustained by people who can afford to buy the homes, shop in the retail centers and support the infrastructure, said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta.

"It's very ambitious, and in order to realize all of this, it seems like we need to populate more income, better jobs," Montgomery said. "This is the land-use plan, but is there a plan to put in place so all of this can come into reality?"

Shields said that is where the community must come into play. In order for the revitalization of area to become a reality, groups must come together to implement changes and begin construction projects.

He has called for the organization of an Office of ASDA Implementation, which will be a fully staffed office to carry out the ideas of the plan.

"This is no the end of the plan," Shields said. "It's the beginning. It's a starting point."

Richmond County master plan to be unveiled today