MCG compromises on Laney-Walker proposal

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Medical College of Georgia has compromised on its proposal to create a pedestrian mall on the portion of Laney-Walker Boulevard that runs through its campus, MCG President Ricardo Azziz said. But the school is considering potential alternate routes to help with the increased traffic that could result.

An artist's rendering shows the proposed renovation of Laney-Walker Boulevard at Medical College of Georgia. MCG had hoped to build a pedestrian mall where the street crosses campus.   Special
Special
An artist's rendering shows the proposed renovation of Laney-Walker Boulevard at Medical College of Georgia. MCG had hoped to build a pedestrian mall where the street crosses campus.

Azziz met Tuesday with The Augusta Chronicle Editorial Board to talk about the proposal. In its only public hearing so far -- though others are promised -- the idea was met with a storm of protest from many who live and work in the adjacent historic black neighborhood. Azziz said it has been turned into a racially charged issue and it should not be.

"This is not about race," he said. "This is not about one community. This is about the prosperity of Augusta. This is about doing the right thing for Augusta as a community and for the university, the No. 2 employer in the area of Augusta and the state's health sciences university.

"And those who play segregation politics are bringing the city and the region to an era that is bygone and are forgetting to see the future of our city as we work united."

In fact, the proposal would create a pedestrian mall that would allow emergency vehicles to still cut through but would also honor the road's namesakes, Lucy Craft Laney and the Rev. C.T. Walker. That would make for a more fitting beginning to the historic road, Azziz said.

"This is truly where Laney-Walker begins, begins at a university, at a pedestrian mall that recognizes the civil rights leaders," he said. "That is what Augusta deserves to have."

The mall would not only ensure safety on a road that now cuts the campus in half but would also make it more attractive and more competitive for students and faculty, allowing more growth, Azziz said.

Some have wondered if there can't be a compromise. Chester Wheeler, the director of the Augusta Housing and Community Development Department, whose office is on Laney-Walker, proposed making that section two lanes to cut down on traffic.

Azziz said the proposal "has changed dramatically already. What has also become lost in the discussion is that in fact we have already modified our plans significantly according to our initial discussions with the community. We went from having a complete green space occluding Laney-Walker to converting it to a pedestrian mall that would allow emergency vehicles to go through that area to provide rapid and safe transit for members of the Laney-Walker community when they had to seek health care."

The school is looking at potential alternatives for any increased traffic on other nearby roads, such as changes to the 15th Street bridge that crosses over Wrightsboro Road, Azziz said.

"We are actually looking at a number of alternatives to ensure that we impact on traffic the least," he said.

Coming Sunday

An enormous investment is going into the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem communities to turn blighted or vacant housing into attractive new homes, some on the edge of Medical College of Georgia. Both the university and the community want to reach out to the other but could be divided by a road closure proposal.

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bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 01/05/11 - 06:54 am
0
0
What is wrong with

What is wrong with people..this is a great idea...and those who would stall it's progress are the same ones who keep Augusta in the past....shame on those so called leaders who mirror the national leaders and continally cause strife and divide in their fear of losing their power with the the people they "speak for".......................

comet2u
28
Points
comet2u 01/05/11 - 07:34 am
0
0
Compromise? Pa-a-lease. The

Compromise? Pa-a-lease. The only two things that are accomplished by this closure is a lot more congestion around GHSU, especially at 5 pm and Mr Axziz gets his own personal driveway to work.

If safety is "really" an issue then why hasn't the city closed Laney Walker in front of Laney Walker High. Don't the students there have to "dodge" the traffic to get to the stadium on the other side of campus? How about closing 13th street in front of Davidson Magnet? Or Walton Way in front of the Academy of Richmond Count? Maybe safety doesn't apply in those locations, not enough revenue for the city.

If we are going to be honest about it the Laney Walker should be closed from 15th to RA Dent. That way we all have to drive out of our way.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 01/05/11 - 08:41 am
0
0
"If safety is "really" an
Unpublished

"If safety is "really" an issue then why hasn't the city closed Laney Walker in front of Laney Walker High. Don't the students there have to "dodge" the traffic to get to the stadium on the other side of campus? How about closing 13th street in front of Davidson Magnet? Or Walton Way in front of the Academy of Richmond Count? Maybe safety doesn't apply in those locations, not enough revenue for the city."

I agree. But remember, this is not about race. :/

As a "compromise" a possible memorial will be built for Lucy C. Laney and C. T. Walker. Why hasn't the city of Augusta done this yet?!?

Why would it take until MCG wants to change the landscape of Augusta for these actions to take place?

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 01/05/11 - 08:42 am
0
0
If MCG wasn't right there-
Unpublished

If MCG wasn't right there- there would be more ghetto neighborhoods. MCG is a positive influence down there and should be able to have the two sides of their campus brought together safely. They're willing to hear alternatives and are giving the public a chance to give input on this so it's not like they're keeping everyone out of the decision process.

BornInAUG
1
Points
BornInAUG 01/05/11 - 08:42 am
0
0
You have to slow down so much

You have to slow down so much for the pedestrian's as it is. I think this would be a great idea. Anything to BEAUTIFY and simplify Augusta needs to be considered.

comet2u
28
Points
comet2u 01/05/11 - 08:51 am
0
0
If 200 ft in length is your

If 200 ft in length is your idea of beautifying Augusta, NYC should give up its monoply on beauty and start selling off 500 acre tracts of Central Park.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 01/05/11 - 09:09 am
0
0
If you cave to the rasist

If you cave to the rasist accusations, then it is about race. Plain & Simple. Do what you need to do to strengthen MCG's position in Augusta.

Lawpig
0
Points
Lawpig 01/05/11 - 09:11 am
0
0
Cometu: the city is not

Cometu: the city is not closing Laney Walker; rather, MCG is. MCG wants to close the street to traffic to makes its campus more cohesive. What is wrong with that? People pay money (lots of money) to attend MCG. MCG wants to take that money and make the school a better place to attend. The leaders of the school think they can do that by giving the school more of a campus feel (something it currently lacks).

I think it's great for Augusta.

Also, I would imagine the pedestrian mall would be a little more than 200 feet. Regardless, you can make improvements 200 feet at a time.

Also, Central Park is less than 1000 acres, so you could sell of 500 acres twice or so. Anyway, who would NYC sell Central Park to? If having 200 feet of space is considered beautiful why would NYC want to give up 500 acres of beauty? Wouldn't it be even more beautiful because of having so much more space? Sarcasm fail.

Smart_Reader
0
Points
Smart_Reader 01/05/11 - 09:22 am
0
0
Great idea. Please don't give

Great idea.

Please don't give those you want the Medical School moved to Athens any more reasons than they already have. Thanks.

Justin4466
43
Points
Justin4466 01/05/11 - 09:56 am
0
0
countyman
21604
Points
countyman 01/05/11 - 10:05 am
0
0
The rendering does look

The rendering does look nice... I'm still kinda concerned about the future traffic patterns in the area.

Riverman1
93229
Points
Riverman1 01/05/11 - 10:22 am
0
0
Great idea and points by Dr.

Great idea and points by Dr. Azziz. Most of the comments here are supportive and accurate, too. I couldn't agree more. Let's get moving on it now.

countyman
21604
Points
countyman 01/05/11 - 10:42 am
0
0
I'm ready to see mid and high

I'm ready to see mid and high rise apartments built around the Medical Distict... The students at GHSU and Paine College would love to be within walking distance of their school.

MCG is supposed to be demolishing the old student housing along 15th street. When the new dorms on the old Fat Man property are completed.

GuesS_wHU
3
Points
GuesS_wHU 01/05/11 - 10:50 am
0
0
When d'Azziz spends the

When d'Azziz spends the college into bankruptsy, I wonder if it will be relocated to Athens? Is it a matter of convenience that the cost of this project has not been revealed?

C2Soldier
0
Points
C2Soldier 01/05/11 - 01:19 pm
0
0
Good for MCG! I can promise

Good for MCG! I can promise you Dr. Azziz isn't the sole decision behind this project and with that much education I feel confident that the school has a plan. I don't see any other organization stepping up to improve that area. This is not 1920 and if you live in the downtown area you should expect traffic to progressively get worse. If that isn't good for you then move. Imminent Domain is a horrible practice but sometimes necessary for the greater good of the area.

showboat
367
Points
showboat 01/05/11 - 02:18 pm
0
0
Why can't students and
Unpublished

Why can't students and workers stop and look both ways before crossing the street? Dr. Azzie will close the street and leave town for another job, this guy is a self serveing person just watching moveing around on compus he think he isGod!!!!

GuesS_wHU
3
Points
GuesS_wHU 01/05/11 - 02:39 pm
0
0
yah

yah

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 01/05/11 - 05:16 pm
0
0
You have had more people

You have had more people killed while crossing Washington Road. I guess once Augusta National closes Washington Road for the same reason, the comments will change. I know the Masters is only a week long, but the members play all year long.

grinder48
2050
Points
grinder48 01/05/11 - 05:23 pm
0
0
Just because Azzie says this
Unpublished

Just because Azzie says this is about "doing the right thing for Augusta" and "That is what Augusta deserves to have" yadayadayada doesn't mean it's so. I emphatically say there's a problem with closing a primary east-west artery of the city and it will negatively impact traffic on all streets around it and, unless they build a tunnel under the proposed "pedestrian mall" (like that could happen!) the "potential alternatives" Azzie mentions for dealing with area traffic can't possibly overcome the negative impact on traffic. I agree with showboat 2:18PM, this guy is an ego-maniac just trying to so something so he can claim he did this big thing. Get outta' here!

C2Soldier
0
Points
C2Soldier 01/05/11 - 06:42 pm
0
0
A mall will generate revenue

A mall will generate revenue and draw people to the area. Those people will not just shop at the Mall. They will also visit local stores. MCG is the only organization attempting to help the downtown area. Would you rather it remain a dump?

Southern Sailor
0
Points
Southern Sailor 01/05/11 - 07:20 pm
0
0
A DUMP? C2Soldier, I take

A DUMP? C2Soldier, I take issue with your assessment and I am affronted by your contention that MCG is a dump. It is not. MCG is a very nice place. While Riverman posted a link of a survey (http://www.amsa.org/premed/medsurvey/) that shows that nationally, MCF is slightly better than average (3.1 of 5) as far as safety goes, this is not a mandate to close roads. MINIMAL staff salary increases are being nixed by MCG because of money problems and our new Beverly Hills president is on a mission to close LW without regard to cost because of a safety emergency. If we believe the news from Atlanta, the state budget will be cut. The MCG faculty members that I talk to have asked for a budget advisory committee, and there are many of us at MCG who hope that this happens. But MCG IS NOT A DUMP.

Riverman1
93229
Points
Riverman1 01/05/11 - 08:19 pm
0
0
C2solider said, "Mall." Heh,

C2solider said, "Mall." Heh, heh, heh.

Southern Sailor, look at the ratings for medical schools in GA-SC for safety and see the difference. Heck, even Mercer in Macon is rated a much safer place. Close Laney Walker.

griff6035
4279
Points
griff6035 01/05/11 - 08:30 pm
0
0
I do not understand why

I do not understand why someone has not brought to light the true facts about the area in and around the Medical College of Georgia. Most of the area from 13th to 15th street and Walton Way to Gwinnett street {now called Laney Walker Blvd} was a subdivision Affectionately known as Frog Hollow. The people living in this subdivision owned their home. They were forced off of their property by the city of Augusta so that the Medical Complexes could expand. This area was never a historic black neighborhood.

Southern Sailor
0
Points
Southern Sailor 01/05/11 - 08:38 pm
0
0
OK Riverman. Close LW. But

OK Riverman. Close LW. But since you are an insider, please tell us how much it will cost and how MCG will pay for it. And then compare survey ratings for academics and adequacy of facilities and comment about how MCG should set spending priorities. If you do this, I won't ask you to indulge the lower-tier staff about long-overdue COLA increases, even as Dr. Azziz continues to hire additional fat-cat administrators. There are many people waiting to hear from you.

Southern Sailor
0
Points
Southern Sailor 01/05/11 - 08:55 pm
0
0
PS: Readers please chime in

PS: Readers please chime in to help me persuade insider Riverman to support the cause of disclosing how much closing LW will cost and how MCG will pay for it. This has nothing to do with black and white politics.

MD2013
101
Points
MD2013 01/05/11 - 10:33 pm
0
0
Dr. Azziz, Stay true to your

Dr. Azziz,

Stay true to your ideas! Creating this green space is a fantastic idea, not only for the benefit to the university proper, but more importantly to help keep the students, faculty, and staff safe when crossing across the campus. Laney-Walker is a major safety hazard to the students who have to cross that street every day, as well as an eye-sore that rips our small campus apart. After attending two other Georgia universities (GSU and UGA), I can honestly say that our campus does not do justice to our university, and when I first came to my interview here I was really surprised with how dark our campus appeared. Create a green space and keep the MCG faculty, staff, and students safe from traffic.

I'm a medical student here at MCG and I support Dr. Azziz.

wisconsin badger
0
Points
wisconsin badger 01/05/11 - 11:31 pm
0
0
I have read about the closing

I have read about the closing of this section of Laney Walker that runs through MCG and the reason seems to be safety. One alternative if its a safety issue is maybe a bridge between the buildings so the students can get to class safely. Other than that you are closing a historic street in a historic neightborhood. NOW...if MCG was situated in the Hill section of Augusta, and you had to close a section of Walton Way...would most of the people on here be for that....remember...its not about race, but for the safety of the students. I am sure there are alumni from Lucy Laney who are watching this whole thing unfold and my word of advice, dont let them close this street. Not only for the school, but for the community....

Southern Sailor
0
Points
Southern Sailor 01/05/11 - 11:59 pm
0
0
This whole issue is BIZARRE.

This whole issue is BIZARRE. Everywhere in the U.S. there are major university campuses with streets running through them. And, yep, that includes our UGA. In fact, everywhere, as universities become more relevant and campuses become larger, it is more likely that major streets will run through them. So, folks, this is NOT about safety. it is about Dr. Azziz's CONTROL. And it will have a HUGE price tag, to be paid with money that comes from WHERE? Why isn't anyone asking about how much it will cost, and where will the dough come from?

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 01/06/11 - 12:34 am
0
0
And we wonder why the state

And we wonder why the state wants to move MCG to Athens. Dr Azziz.. this is the mentality you will continue to encounter in Augusta. If you know whats good for health science education in Georgia, then you will forget about this Laney-Walker idea and just ask to have all of MCG moved to Athens. Then when Augusta loses its 2nd largest employer, maybe then they will have an epiphany. You do realize, that here in Augusta, you are dealing with some of the most uneducated and backwards thinking people in the entire state.

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 01/06/11 - 08:18 am
0
0
Amen !!!.......emerydan!

Amen !!!.......emerydan!

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