Students, business owners disagree on 'coolness'

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Augusta's cool quotient depends on whom you ask.

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Patrons eat at Bee's Knees in downtown. Some residents say Augusta lags behind Greenville and Charleston, S.C.   Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Patrons eat at Bee's Knees in downtown. Some residents say Augusta lags behind Greenville and Charleston, S.C.

Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz and others think the city has slim cool offerings.

Even if it does exude some coolness, as downtown business owners and supporters believe, some GHSU students said they would know the library walls better than the local scene.

Speaking Monday to the Rotary Club of Augusta, Azziz said Augusta lacks a creative, vibrant culture and lifestyle that many potential research recruits desire.

Sarah Beth Eriksen, 24, a third-year GHSU medical student, said students are more concerned with studying than looking for "distractions."

"The young culture here is all very transient," Eriksen said. "It's all people who come in for school and leave."

The downtown lifestyle was a factor in Eriksen's decision to move back to Greenville, S.C., where she attended college.

"Augusta is what Greenville was 15 years ago before they got their act together," she said.

Downtown Greenville has a cluster of restaurants, shops, businesses and arts centers along its river bank and Main Street.

Augusta could benefit from a proactive city council interested in reinvigorating downtown, Eriksen said.

Kapil Chaudhary, 29, said Augusta lags behind Birmingham, Ala., and other cities in the region he has visited.

A GHSU doctoral candidate originally from India and living in Augusta for almost two years, Chaudhary said he is eager to finish school. Chaudhary wouldn't stay in Augusta as a researcher, he said.

Medical University of South Carolina spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said Charleston, S.C., has a slight edge in terms of lifestyle. Many recruiters say the medical school's location was a factor in many faculty and student decisions, Woolwine said.

Chad Hembree, 32, of Newnan, Ga., chose Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., 10 years ago over Medical College of Georgia for academic reasons.

The city lifestyle was not a significant decision-maker, Hembree said.

But Hembree said the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area does offer some cool downtown development for living, shopping, eating, sports and the arts.

"Durham has nooks and crannies that are nice, but it certainly has a long way to go," he said.

A combination of students, young professionals, doctors and researchers visit the American Tobacco District, a renovated tobacco warehouse adjacent to the city's baseball stadium and performing arts center, Hembree said.

"There's a very vibrant community of higher education and with that comes a lot of cultural events," he said.

Azziz said Augusta doesn't compare well to cities including Charleston and Durham that have worked to make walkable and liveable communities.

Augustans seem to believe a myth that students and researchers are transient people, Azziz said.

"Having a culture that is attractive to productive individuals in their younger years translates to longer retention rates," Azziz said. "That is why top liveable communities are academic communities," he said.

Dr. Ben Casella, 30, said Augusta needs visionaries such as Azziz to capitalize on downtown real estate.

"It takes people coming from the outside looking in," said Casella, an optometrist on Broad Street. Casella is also a member of Historic Augusta Inc. and Downtown Augusta Alliance.

"We are a cool city. You just have to be more appealing on the surface," Casella said.

Downtown Augusta needs less vacant buildings between each good business, he said. Young people need to put forth effort to find out the good things downtown offers, Casella said.

The key is picking up periodicals with entertainment calendars to know what's going on, he said.

Coco Rubio, the owner of Soul Bar and Sky City in downtown Augusta, said "cool" was an interesting word choice from Azziz.

"Cool: It's an abstract word that means something different to everyone," Rubio said.

Rubio and others said downtown has a pocket of coolness suited for those looking for an artsy life.

"There's a misconception here in town," he said.

Rubio pinpointed the blocks radiating from the corner of 10th Street and Broad Street as a "natural center for cool."

"It's always been small businesses and friends working together," he said. "We decided awhile back we're going to live here and do something."

Azziz said Augusta can reach a higher level quickly, and that's why he is willing to work on it.

"We have a good start," Azziz said. "We haven't gelled it all together into areas of town that people want to go."

What they're saying

What Augusta has:

- Jack McAdams and others said Petersburg Boat canal cruises are a cool thing to do.

- Lynn Mertins stays busy listening to live music at the Appleby Library and Jesse Norman Amphitheatre.

- Saturday Markets on the River and First Friday keeps Priscilla Bence coming downtown.

What Augusta needs:

- Cool transportation seems to be the downtown fix for Bill Hughes, of North Augusta. He would like to see two English-style double decker buses, a cable-car running across the Savannah River, pedi-cabs and a riverboat. You could see the sights from a restaurant built on stilts.

- A performing arts center on the river would be one reason for LaVetta Jones to call Augusta cool. She also recommends a children's museum in the former Fort Discovery building.

- Marie Kerwan Turner and her stepdaughter, Allison, would like a restaurant on the river.

Join the online conversation

Share your thoughts on last week's "cool" comments:

- "True though... Augusta is about as cool as an episode of The Lawrence Welk Show" -- Posted by Emerydan at 4:40 p.m. Monday

- "Maybe the word 'cool' is not the appropriate word to be used, but it sure got some folks riled up, huh?" -- Posted by twilahzone at 9:31 a.m. Wednesday

Comments (55) Add comment
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DanK
784
Points
DanK 06/12/11 - 02:04 am
0
0
Dr Azziz is right. There's

Dr Azziz is right. There's really not much to attract promising young PhD/MD research faculty to Augusta. That's the people GHSU will be trying to recruit. Highly educated people in their late 20s to late 30s. The best would be coming from big universities in thriving cities. And GHSU will be competing against those same universities for the most talented people. What does Augusta have to offer? A handful of kinda okay restaurants, a community orchestra with no concert hall, a boat ride, a couple of local art shops ... no thriving hip entertainment district with lots of restaurants, clubs, theaters, cool shops, alive late into the night every night. No upscale shopping, no historic markets, no microbreweries, no fine bookstores or coffee house, not even a real deli or specialty cheese shop. Couple that with the prevalent social intolerance and ultra-radical conservative politics, and I think Dr A is facing an impossible challenge. It will be very difficult to recruit those highly educated, talented people to Augusta, and even harder to keep them.

wondersnevercease
9218
Points
wondersnevercease 06/12/11 - 05:23 am
0
0
"A handful of kinda okay
Unpublished

"A handful of kinda okay restaurants, a community orchestra with no concert hall, a boat ride, a couple of local art shops"........ and of course the biggest reason Augusta is dying...crime..the thug element....the inability of the Commission to move forward...because it thinks backward.
Until there is REAL leadership there....... will be no cool.

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 06/12/11 - 09:34 am
0
0
I think the key to making

I think the key to making Augusta 'cool' is to get the local government out of the revitalization business as much as possible. The private sector ultimately determines what works financially, so the government's only focus should be to provide for infrastructure and to make it easier for businesses to flourish. Then the market can determine what is 'cool'. As Coco Rubio said, everyone has his or her own idea as to what cool is, so how about letting free enterprise decide what works?

peace4784
130
Points
peace4784 06/12/11 - 06:01 am
0
0
Dr. Azziz does not really
Unpublished

Dr. Azziz does not really care about Augusta. His negative comments about Augusta only proves he is self absorbed and only cares about improving his own career at Augusta's expense. Once he has padded his resume in Augusta he is outta here. Each city is unique in it's own way and each will attract it's own unique crowd who will appreciate it's uniqueness. Cool is a relative term to each individual. The students who choses not to come to Augusta doesn't belong here anyway. And, if a university president gives off negative vibes about Augusta they don't belong here as well. If Augusta's not cool, then those that matter don't mind and those that mind don't matter. Kevin Palmer

Chad
57
Points
Chad 06/12/11 - 06:38 am
0
0
Dr. Azziz is absolutely

Dr. Azziz is absolutely correct in his views of Augusta. The down town area looks run-down. Good people do not want to visit businesses that are in an area full of thugs. Broad street has the potential to look like Greenville, SC or WinterPark FL. Both these cities have an area that people flock to just so they can hang out and relax. Finding a place to park on a Sunday afternoon is difficult at best at both these locations. The first and foremost item that needs to be addressed is the crime. Run the thugs out of that area and keep them out. Example last first Friday I had to go down to broad street and saw only 1 cop milling about at 9:30 P.M. Augusta has some of the most beautiful old buildings and homes but most are in a state of disrepair. The owners will not fix anything up so long as the criminal element keeps tearing it up. If the county commissioners will not do anything about this problem. The local business owners need to get together and start their own program that will run out the bad elements.

whatsupwiththat
1
Points
whatsupwiththat 06/12/11 - 07:27 am
0
0
Maybe we could change

Maybe we could change Augusta's name to "Augusta-Richmond County Metropolitan Center of Coolness". It works about as well as Georgia Health Sciences University. I am sure that somewhere Azziz must be missed.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 06/12/11 - 08:03 am
0
0
Augusta was cool many years

Augusta was cool many years ago. It's been a slow fade caused by an on going decay of city/county leadership and community apathy. Until that changes, nothing will change. Regardless of how one feels about Azziz's comments, he is not only right; he's helping Augusta progress to step one...admitting there is a problem. City officials would do well to cultivate a relationship with him and other community leaders. There is always room for improvement.

MD2013
101
Points
MD2013 06/12/11 - 08:35 am
0
0
I love how his comments are

I love how his comments are stirring the pot! If you think Augusta is the coolest place around, you should go live in a different city for a while!

I think what WOULD be cool is if you could walk around at night without worrying about getting robbed, stabbed, shot, or carjacked on your way home. That would be really COOL.

I think it WOULD be really cool if there were more people paying taxes in Richmond County, and the mean household income was over the poverty level. That would also be very COOL.

freeradical
1176
Points
freeradical 06/12/11 - 09:20 am
0
0
I've got to hand it to

I've got to hand it to Azziz.

I did not believe it was possible to condense down to one word,

and place into the proper context a single term which expresses

everything I loathe about the typical liberal, elitist, Obama supporter, and

their self-perceived superiority.

But the man has nailed it.

It's all about ME , and keeping MY vastly superior intellect pleasurably

tickled and delighted.

The "coolest" medical professionals I have ever met have given up

everything the average elitist bonehead perceives as cool to devote

themselves to serving dirt poor people for years in some of the world's

most un-"cool" locales.

"Turn not to the easiest , but to the most difficult.....
not to more , but to the less , not to what is high and precious
, but to what is low and despised, not towards desiring anything
, but to desiring nothing."

(Juan de Yepes)

SCY385
3
Points
SCY385 06/12/11 - 09:23 am
0
0
Augusta has its good points.

Augusta has its good points. But it really needs to update a bit. Why do I have to go to Atlanta for really good shopping? Why is there no Dave & Busters? There have been some good entertainment acts that have come through, but not enough. I have had to go to Atlanta, Florida, and South Carolina to see some performers. The local government spends too much time with petty rivalries and meanwhile the city suffers. I could go on, but it would be really nice if Augusta could claim more than just the Masters.

AnnaBass
-2
Points
AnnaBass 06/12/11 - 09:33 am
0
0
I agree that we lack serious

I agree that we lack serious cool. We're transplants from DC and Pittsburgh, both cool towns. We thought moving to a multi-college town it would be a more progressive and happening town. First Friday and Saturday AM market are a nice start - but - people need more than warm events and once a month socials. But I ask you, exactly how many vegetable tables can one take in a nice Saturday morning anyway?

One of the major causes for a crime element to emerge is boredom. Every week, I scour the papers events posting, the Metro Spirit, and Calendar of Events websites for both SC and GA. Events here are few and far between. A yard sale is NOT a cool event. Events that charge a fee to participate are NOT cool. Events/music that only occur in a bar, or expensive venue are NOT cool. Shops closed on Sunday are NOT cool. Empty and vacant buildings; NOT cool. Nothing more fun than going out for brunch and then strolling the streets to window shop in open, thriving, clean, COOL shops. You don't have to travel far to get a good example of what Augusta could be; travel to Athens or even Aiken. Both always seem to have a busy, thriving, happening downtown district.

A lot of money is going into the convention center downtown - but when companies look to choose a venue for an event, they also look at the area attractions. In other words, they look to see how "cool" the place is going to be for their event. I fear the lack of offerings within walking distance will greatly affect the success of this venture.

With our colleges and local military, Augusta IS a transient area. The question should be: Do we want it to remain this way? If there is nothing to attract folks to stay, why would they? Isn't it better for the entire greater Augusta area for newcomers to fall in love with it, and then to want to raise and grow their families here contributing to the communities economic growth and stability?

Dr. Azziz is not self-absorbed. He's honest enough to admit that if his job did not require him to be here, he would not choose to live here. This really says it all.

dougk
3
Points
dougk 06/12/11 - 10:15 am
0
0
One of the problems is
Unpublished

One of the problems is attitudes like peace4784 @ 7:01....the "if you don't like it, then leave" approach will will impede any kind of progress toward coolness...

david jennings
625
Points
david jennings 06/12/11 - 10:21 am
0
0
DanK said it right.Ive lived

DanK said it right.Ive lived here all my life and aggree with Willow Bailey also.The crime and petty bickering among the comm. is a big problem.I wish comm.could look past thier district and consider whats best for Richmd. Co. as a whole,that would be a good start.Good luck Dr.A ,I totally agree with you.

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 06/12/11 - 11:29 am
0
0
Were definitely behind cities

Were definitely behind cities similar to Charleston, but our downtown is becoming better a place to live, work, and play. Part of the problem with our downtown is the lack of knowledge... The great things happening around downtown don't get much publicity.. Whether it's the events, festivals, or construction projects...

The other problem is the exaggerated crime problem.. I live downtown and the Central Business District is a safe area overall.. The news reports concerning crime taking place downtown... 95% of those crime don't happen in the Central Business District, but rather in East Augusta, Bethlehem, Turpin Hill, or the sketchy parts of Laney Walker and Bethlehem...

Augusta has a growing, trendy, and hip area called Artist Row on Broad street.

Brad Owens
4921
Points
Brad Owens 06/12/11 - 11:28 am
0
0
Augusta could be a great

Augusta could be a great place if it weren't not such a great place. Can I get a headline for stating the obvious too?

Brad

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 06/12/11 - 11:31 am
0
0
Some of the bigger

Some of the bigger events-festivals downtown
1. Westobou (regional draw of hundreds of thousands of people)
2, Arts in the Heart(70k people)
3. Gay Pride & Festival
4. Riverblast
5. First Friday
5. Sunday Night Jazz Series
7. Saturday Market on the River
8. ESI Ironman
9. Southern Nationals
10. Christmas Light Up Spectacular
11. Hispanic Festival
12. Greek Festival
13. Augusta Canal boat tour
14. Patriot boat tours
15. Garden Festival

Keep in mind I didn't include the events at the James Brown Arena, Bell Aduitorium, Le Chat Noir, Imperial Theatre, or the local bars and lounges.. The $5 million from Splost towards the Miller Theatre will help create another future cool place downtown..

The USA Cycling Elite, U23, juniors road national championships and the U.S. Paralympics cycling championships take place in downtown Augusta this June(22-26).. The event will return to downtown Augusta in the year 2012..

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 06/12/11 - 11:59 am
0
0
Hey AUGUSTA Leaders.... take
Unpublished

Hey AUGUSTA Leaders.... take a clue from area residents... get rid of the project areas from around the downtown area and put cops downtown- and not just in patrol cars. Most people from here know that the streets of downtown Augusta can be dangerous. Also, Mr. Azziz, now that you're the head honcho down there- how about you and your ASU counterpart(s) round up some investors to put some student housing downtown.

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 06/12/11 - 12:55 pm
0
0
List of the private

List of the private construction projects underway downtown

1. 34 condos are under construction at the Whites Building
2. Tantra Lounge is opening in the Doris building(adjacent to the Whites buidling)
3. Soy Noodle House is expanding into the former Garden City Organics next door(doubles seating capacity, adds full bar, and new menu selections)
4. Sit A Spell coffee house is open on Broad street
5. Sundrees Market opened in the Whites building
6. Aficionados located at 307 Eighth street is now open(Fine Wine, Craft Beer, Micro Brews, Cigars and Fine Tobaccos)..
7. Curvitude(plus-size clothing boutique) opened inside of Elegant Extensions salon at 923 Broad street
8. Red star building(retail/residential)
9. The Faulk building(1200 block of Broad) is under contranct and went through inspections..
10. Energy Audit Application was submitted to Green Fund for the Elliot building
11. The DDA along with the help of Blanchard and Calhoun are working on recruiting grocery stores.. Both Kroger and IGA have made site visits..
They're continuing to work with three more potential brands with sites in Laney Walker and towards Harrisburg...
12. The S4 Lounge is opening at 952 Broad street
13. A bar is opening at 544 Broad street..

As the economy continues to improve don't forget about the Hyatt mix-use complex(8 story hotel, 3 story office or commercial building, underground paking) and the Holiday Inn Express(renovation of Regency Inn)..
http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/Augusta+Hyatt+Place+Final+Plans.pdf

The final two projects starting in the near future really show me downtown Augusta is growing..
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:gVKed3qBrKMJ:appweb...

1. The DDA is working on code issues with prospective new owners of the old Belk's (built in 1911) next to the Augusta Common.. An announcement is coming in the future. Sprint Food & Metro Market is opening at 851 Broad street. The property site is 22k sq. ft. in size(might be a small gas station and a good size market component on the common)
http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/14774964/851-Broad-Street-Augusta-GA/
http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/14900095/851-Broad-St-Augusta-GA/

2. Developers of the Lofts at Marbury(located btw Greene and Ellis and 12th and 13th streets) wrote a check to the DDA in April to proceed with the GA cities loan application. Phase 1 calls for one 42-unit loft building... The 42 unit building is 3 1/2 to 4 stories tall.. Three stories of residential above pull under parking.. A rooftop terrace overlooking downtown sits on top of the building... Phase 2 consists of two 5 unit townhome buildings.... The two 5 unit townhome buildings are 3 stories tall..

Because of the several private investments taking place downtown.. Along with the TEE center, 3rd level of the canal rewatering next to the Judicial Center, Broad street lighting/camera/sidwalk project, James Brown Boulevard streetscape phase 1 and phase 2, and parking deck... Downtown Augusta won't feel or look the same by the end of 2011..

countyman
21687
Points
countyman 06/12/11 - 12:20 pm
0
0
The chronicle reviewing my

The chronicle reviewing my comments for several minutes to hours is really getting old..

Trukin... Getting GHSU to create new housing downtown is a great idea.. They brought the Old Fatmans property next to Paine College in order to develop new student dorms.. But I'd rather have the student housing located in the actual Central Business District.. ASU is clearly focusing on the Wrightsboro/Damascus rd area.. They're plans call for making the East campus larger(new $28 million building opening by 2014) than the West campus(Summerville) in the next few years.. ASU should buy the shopping center on Wrightsboro infront of University Village..

AutumnLeaves
10368
Points
AutumnLeaves 06/12/11 - 12:30 pm
0
0
If I was a student I wouldn't

If I was a student I wouldn't take one step off campus or my route to get to and from there if I didn't feel safe in the city. The most important thing we can do to make it a more attractive city: Make it safer for law-abiding citizens. The next: STOP LITTERING!!!

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 06/12/11 - 12:31 pm
0
0
You know, crime stats can be

You know, crime stats can be misleading as far as being an indicator of the success of an area. If there is only one murder in a certain part of town one year, and then two the next year, the murder rate for that area has technically gone up one hundred percent. On the other hand, when looking at the overall stats, if the rate itself is low, yet the types of crimes committed are violent in nature, stats are irrelevant, in my opinion - when people are wondering if a murderer or rapist (or whatever) is on the loose.

YankeeInvasion
0
Points
YankeeInvasion 06/12/11 - 12:45 pm
0
0
I don't think "coolness" is

I don't think "coolness" is really an issue. Augusta has some interesting aspects, but if I knew back then what I knew now, I never would have come here. There are basic elements lacking in this area, namely professionalism and effiecency within the local governments and area businesses. I could write a book about my poor experiences in this area. Columbia County Services as well as the local government here in Harlem. And don't get me started on the local police and the crime that goes largely ignored.

The schools here leave much to be desired as well. When you compare the test scores of students and the number of kids who go on to college, this area is woefully undereducated, which is surprising considering the high number of white collar jobs here. When I graduated in the 1980s from Massachusetts, we had 99% graduation rate for our high school, and 94% statewide. According to CCBOE, approximately only 68-73% of kids in our area are graduating. That's terrible.
We need to raise the standards in this area if it is going to be able to continue to grow and succeed. As for myself, if I don't see drastic improvements in this area soon, I'll be getting out of here as soon as the housing market makes an improved rebound. Be forewarned CSRA-I am not the only one who feels this way. Prepare for an exodus if you don't get your act together.

Riverman1
94247
Points
Riverman1 06/12/11 - 12:45 pm
0
0
Yankee, things are not

Yankee, things are not working out for you here, I take it. Feel better now?

Bob Munger
0
Points
Bob Munger 06/12/11 - 12:50 pm
0
0
As a developer/architect

As a developer/architect attempting to bring loft apartments to downtown, I can tell you, having paid for the Market Study, that downtown Augusta is ripe for new, high-end rental units. And the west end of Broad, (AKA "Marbury Village"), where our project is slated to go, is perfect in or opinion for GHSU students and researchers who want to live in an urban live/work/play environment.

I cannot tell you how many people new to the area I have talked to who moved to the 'burbs because there was so little to choose from downtown. Downtown is where the Gen Y folks want to be. Let's make it happen.

curly123053
5403
Points
curly123053 06/12/11 - 12:51 pm
0
0
Several years ago I spent a

Several years ago I spent a lot of time going to Greenville vsisting friends. I remember when Greenville started their revitalization of downtown, and I remember thinking that area reminded me of parts of Augusta with it's rundown buildings. But today it's like a brand new city in that area. You have to go down to see it for yourselves. Augusta can do the same thing if they wanted to. You need to decide that you do not want to be in the same whirlpool of thought forever. Dr Azziz is basically correct as he has been to areas with more to offer than Augusta, and he's trying to help the area better itself. The community can decide to be arrogant and prideful, or it can see that there are things we can do to improve Augusta's downtown. Anyone who says no improvements are needed they are just fooling themselves......it would benefit the City of Aiken to post flyers advertising their arts and downtown areas as available to researchers and others. Aiken is ahead of the game in the arts than a lot of larger communities.

Bizkit
35756
Points
Bizkit 06/12/11 - 01:36 pm
0
0
Dr. Azziz is negligent of his

Dr. Azziz is negligent of his duties. MCG (what I will always call it) is the only state public medical school and their main purpose should be to make more primary care physicians to go to areas of need, which aren't the coolest places on earth-podunk georgia. So great, make Augusta so attractive that physicians will never leave here and the rest of georgia will still go under served. Atlanta and Athens have huge research efforts and success. MCG has spent millions to grow research with some success-though I doubt the money generated equaled that spent. Top names have been drawn to MCG only to leave in a few years-doubtful culture was the main factor for leaving. Cool is what people do not where they live. Besides Atlanta (which is unlike any city in georgia), how many cities in georgia would you call "cool". Carrollton, Columbia, Valdosta, Athens (I use to live there-NOT), etc. Apparently Georgia is just uncool, eh.

bigboi
0
Points
bigboi 06/12/11 - 01:37 pm
0
0
I agree with most of the

I agree with most of the commenters.Augusta definetly needs change in order for us to compete with other similar cities.Most of our commissioners are on the money saving agenda and with this agenda we will never move forward. Bottom line is like the old saying"You have to spend some money to make some money."We have no problem building hundreds of hotels to accomodate the masters, but can not revitalize our downtown area to draw more people and make our city "something to talk about". It's not just about the dowtown area. It is Augusta as a whole. Being the second largest and most populated area next to Atlanta in Georgia and there is no major attractions. Examples being amusemant park,water park,oulet shopping centers etc. Even a city as small as Statesboro(Splash in the boro) can build a waterpark but Augusta can't even accomplish this. There is nothing for our children to do. I'll just keep praying.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 06/12/11 - 01:41 pm
0
0
Everyone has
Unpublished

Everyone has ideas......anybody got any funding? As it stands we are furloughing teachers and public safety. When a majority of residents overwhelming worry is how to pay for food and shelter, it is seems rather elitist to be whining about the cool factor. If private funding can be arranged by the cool connoisseurs then by all means, carry on. As for me, I think that if local government got out of the “me” business and entered into the “us” business, a lot of these issues would take care of themselves.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 06/12/11 - 02:03 pm
0
0
bigboi Augusta Aquatic
Unpublished

bigboi

Augusta Aquatic Center, Family Y, Augusta Museum, Over 60 public parks and rec centers, seasonal youth sports, boys and girls clubs, scouts, Greenjackets, brand new public library, First Tee, Newman Tennis Center, various summer camps, but I'm guessing none of these things are cool....

Fools_and_sages
360
Points
Fools_and_sages 06/12/11 - 02:22 pm
0
0
When you're not from
Unpublished

When you're not from Augusta--meaning you were born and raised outside the CSRA and perhaps even outside the states of GA or SC or even outside the south in general, Augusta is not all that cool. You hardly ever know what's going on until it's about to happen or it's over and everything costs money-- usually at least $15 to even walk through the gate or door. That becomes a hefty price tag for a couple and their kids.

As an outsider who has made my home in Augusta for a number of years, I can safely say Augusta is cool but you have to know where to look to find it. The Metro Spirit does a better job promoting entertainment than The Chronicle, but there plain and simply isn't enough radio or tv advertising for most events. When Cats comes to town and you find out from a billboard, you can get 15th row center tickets the night before the show and it doesn't sell out, there is something wrong with publicity and with the people in this town who don't go to these events. Did you know Loretta Lynn is coming to town next weekend? I wouldn't have known if I hadn't have seen the James Brown Arena's marquee at a graduation ceremony over a month ago. Major events plus no advertising equals BIG problem.

At the same time, there is a "buyer beware" caveat attached to everything that goes on in the CSRA. Since Westobou and Arts in the Heart significantly overlap and combine events, they are, in many ways, the same festival but they require multiple admissions fees. Arts are cool. The multiple admissions fees are not so cool. Where I come from, the arts festival shuts down a 3 square mile area of the city for a week, admission is free, and you have to go back 3 or 4 times to see all of it. There was a lot more than a parking lot and two city blocks involved. So Arts in the Heart is better than nothing-- but it's not much compared to what other places have to offer.

Second, the ethnic festivals in Augusta are a joke. They amount to a couple tents with some music and food. That's not cool because, where I come from, an ethnic festival was a carnival-- complete with rides and a midway. There was no admission fee except for the $5 rides pass for each kid and the food you ate. It took up a whole city park, not the parking lot of a single church. The only festival that had an admission fee beyond what you had to pay to ride the rides or eat food was the "Taste of" festival where all of the local restaurants set up tents downtown to give out tastes of their offerings-- but how much of a fee you paid was up to you because you bought tickets to trade for the food samples.

I grew up in an impoverished city in the Great Lakes region that had a dozen small private colleges, tech schools, and community colleges, two major universities, and a military base. It had a population of about 200,000 and a metro area of about 500,000. Except for the fact that there were more colleges and the bigger campuses each had several thousand students from outside the area, the situation where I grew up was pretty much exactly the same as it is in the CSRA. Yet we had six professional theater groups as well as several community theater troupes. The outdoor community theater was also actually free and you could see Shakespeare. In Augusta, you pay to see community theater and you often see plays you've never heard of or plays you have heard of that have been edited for content (and what is editing a play for content all about? Talk about NOT cool!). Back home, we had a symphony orchestra with its own performance venue. We also had major museums for science, art, and history. We had major sports teams and our minor league teams played in smaller versions of professional quality stadiums. All of the community events were regularly advertised in the newspapers and on radio and tv. Actually, the tv and radio stations would often buy up unused tickets and give them to disadvantaged kids or the elderly so they could enjoy what the community had to offer as well. They got good publicity for doing it because it made the tv news and the paper!

People in this city also need to stop thinking of Augusta as a college town. Yes-- we have Augusta Tech, Augusta State, GHSU, Paine, and some smaller mostly online schools or satellite single-building campuses of other brick-and-mortar colleges. Only two of these institutions have he facilities to house more than a few hundred students on campus, which means our colleges are not bringing a lot of new people into the CSRA. In point of fact, our colleges overwhelmingly serve people who already live and work in the CSRA. They do not draw a lot of "new blood" into the city except when they hire faculty and administrators. Until some of these schools expand further to become something more than just commuter schools, there is no real impetus to make Augusta "cooler" because the "locals" are accustomed to having to go to Atlanta, Charleston, or Charlotte to get what Augusta doesn't have. In fact, most of the locals don't know that what Augusta has doesn't compare what other communities that are similar in size and face similar economic problems and social issues can offer. You have to be an outsider to see it because, when you grow up and live in the same area your entire life, you become so blinded by "the way things have always been" that it makes you reluctant to embrace change.

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