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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countyman
19719
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countyman 06/12/11 - 03:59 pm
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MD2013... The US census

MD2013... The US census doesn't seem to focus on mean household income.. I would like to see where you're getting your information from.. The median household income of Richmond County is well above the percentage of families and individuals in poverty..

Brad Owens
4290
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Brad Owens 06/12/11 - 04:08 pm
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Bob is what we need, more

Bob is what we need, more private developers coming in and renovating living space so we build an actual population in the urban center. Then all the things we need will follow or be expanded like grocery stores (we already have one blooming now beside the Whites Building) and other related businesses to support those dwellers.

Good luck Bob, I hope you all are a great success.

See? That is what I like, PRIVATE business doing the investing.

allhans
23538
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allhans 06/12/11 - 04:21 pm
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Years ago it was safe to walk

Years ago it was safe to walk down Broad St, and now?
Augusta can't possibly become "cool" until the crime rate is slowed.

countyman
19719
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countyman 06/12/11 - 08:21 pm
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Sorry double post..

Sorry double post..

countyman
19719
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countyman 06/12/11 - 05:40 pm
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Brad.. The Lofts at

Brad.. The Lofts at Marbury(three new buildings)is new construction(i.e. urban infill) taking place downtown and not renovations to existing buildings.

Allhans... I'm assuming you mean the Broad street in the CBD? Broad street is still very much safe area overall to walk around.. I can't think of one homicide who took place in the CBD this year.. The multi-million Broad street traffic signal/street light/camera/sidewalk project is under construction and should be completed by September.. The upgrades included a new electrical system to be used during festivals and events. The Arts in the Heart(moving to Broad street this year due to the construction Reynolds) festival will be the first to use the new Broad street upgrades..

http://photos-c.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v2653/218/10/75284541760/n75...
http://c4.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/36/l_65832537e86d446f8deb33d...
http://blog.augustaga.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/broad-street-sidewa...
http://c3.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/102/l_0fe397592aae9b8cecbdb6...
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-bz8wxXuFwTA/Tb6592VTr4I/AAAAAAAAAg8/Eh5Ew1I9kd...
http://blog.augustaga.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/soynoodle.jpg
http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1431/1408176353_98bbd21687.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3283/2876365311_0c70a4180e.jpg
http://c2.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/38/l_df430df3898bd69294ea7d1...
http://c3.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/102/l_0fe397592aae9b8cecbdb6...

The Broad street located in Olde Town is close to reaching full gentrification status.. And soon the Broad street in Harrisburg will become even safer due to the ongoing construction.. The Kroc Center, Martha Lester School, Eve Street Row, Broad Mill Village, First Stop Center, First Stop Village, and the 5 acre park on the Canal..

countyman
19719
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countyman 06/12/11 - 05:51 pm
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The Broad street located in

The Broad street located in the Central Business District is very safe.. The multi-million(thanks to GDOT) Broad street traffic signal/street light/camera/sidewalk project will soon make people feel even safer..

From 13th to 5th street there will be 131 new overhead lights, including 91 pedestrian lights on both sides of the road and in the center median between 10th and 13th street. 12 lights are going in the parking bays also. The construction should by completed by September 2011..

walrus4ever
354
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walrus4ever 06/12/11 - 06:25 pm
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After 40 yrs in Augusta and

After 40 yrs in Augusta and the past 6 in Anderson SC, may I offer one suggestion? Put the Sheriffs Dept on Broad St. Not a substation but the main facility. There are as many illegal activities here as there are in Augusta, but the downtown thrives in the evening without fear of thugs, panhandlers or robbery. Folks are investing in small businesses and the restaurants are full. Its clean and well maintained. No reason Augusta cant do the same. As to Greenville, its light years ahead, like Anderson it isnt hogtied by the officials bickering.

Riverman1
82271
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Riverman1 06/12/11 - 07:02 pm
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Augusta-Richmond County has

Augusta-Richmond County has 16.8 percent of the population with incomes below the poverty level. Columbia County had 5.1 percent below the poverty income level. Aiken County 13.8 percent.

allhans
23538
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allhans 06/12/11 - 08:57 pm
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That is kind of pitiable.

That is kind of pitiable. In all three areas people pull from the same job pool.
I don't think that employees are discriminating against Richmond County when they add their work force, they are hiring the best qualified - and that is the pitiful truth .

freeradical
1052
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freeradical 06/12/11 - 09:42 pm
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I just appreciate Mr Azziz

I just appreciate Mr Azziz stating his chief concerns that his own vastly

superior intellect , as well as the vastly superior intellects of those like

him are more then entitled to be pleasurably tickled and entertained by

whatever community they deign deserving of their liberal , Obama

supporting presence.

It was refreshing to see a college president, of all people admit , to the

vacuous core beliefs so many liberals share, but are less than willing to

confess.

Pu239
284
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Pu239 06/12/11 - 10:14 pm
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After reading all of this, I
Unpublished

After reading all of this, I really need to find a coffee house, some bongos, and a raspberry beret.....Maynard G. Krebs wherefore art thou?
(the raspberry beret is a shout out to Prince because everyone knows Minneapolis/St.Paul is COOL)

lokalloudness
13
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lokalloudness 06/12/11 - 11:21 pm
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0
...I think it's kinda uncool

...I think it's kinda uncool that med students need for Augusta to reflect whatever their definition of "cool" for Augusta to be...hmmm...cool...just to reflect on what some of the comments were about "Augusta has" - going to the library and an ampitheatre that rarely hosts events does not make one an authority on the great live music offered in Augusta. Between bars, clubs, and several larger venues, music has grown to become an vital part of Augusta's culture and area artists are just as talented as those found in the other cities mentioned in the article. An to the person who is drawn downtown by Saturday Market and First Friday...that's great...but how can one say that Augusta lacks merit if you're missing out the rest of the time? Augusta tried restaurants and bars on the river...but Augustans chose to start enjoying the continuing growth of Broad Street...my recommendation - get out of the classroom and try looking at Augusta with more than just a passing by glance. Sure there are cities where colleges students can roam the streets drunk and raise hell...we just choose to respect each other and be together when we party...the youthful exuberance of the future mixed with old country charm is what makes Augusta special...it's a large are moving forward...yet like a small town...a place where you can know everyone...if that's not cool...then I prefer not to be cool...I LOVE AUGUSTA!

Piperpig
9
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Piperpig 06/13/11 - 09:40 am
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Lokallloudness: the med

Lokallloudness: the med students are not demanding that Augusta become cooler. This discussion over Augusta's coolness (or lack thereof) is because we want the metro area to be an attractive place for young professionals. The students and researchers who come to Augusta to be part of MCG may stick around for awhile. They may choose to buy a house (adding to the tax base) here and raise a family. It happens all the time. People tend to stick around where they're educated (it's why we have so many doctors in this area). This is a great town and we are attracting some young professionals--but we're missing out on so many. And it's hurting MCG (or whatever it's called now).

All things being equal as to the quality of education, people are choosing other cities over Augusta. They are going to these other cities, spending money there, rasing families there, investing in homes there. These people have disposable income. They do not commit crimes. They make cities better places to live. I can't believe why in the world the people of this city would not want to do whatever we can to recruit them here. Oh well, at least we're popular for the homeless and Section 8 housing.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 06/13/11 - 09:53 am
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If you think Broad Street is

If you think Broad Street is safe, go down there this afternoon and walk it and see for yourself the characters that are present. It is not the same as walking in Athens, Aiken, Charleston, Greensboro, Greenville, Edgefield, Watkinsville, etc., If I ever have to go back, it will be with a pistol in my purse.

Piperpig
9
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Piperpig 06/13/11 - 10:13 am
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Well, in Charleston many of

Well, in Charleston many of the locals described the C of C and MUSC students downtown as being like sending the sheep to live among the wolves.

countyman
19719
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countyman 06/13/11 - 11:40 am
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I can't think of one homicide

I can't think of one homicide who took place this year in the Central Business District.. I live downtown and happen to walk up and down Broad street daily.. In the early morning hours several people including myself are out jogging around the area...

The pictures I posted on here show Broad street during the afternoon hours.. The recently built Emporium wouldn't have 1br apts renting for $1k per month if the area didn't have a low violent crime rate.. Because I can find multiple 3br homes in the CSRA renting for less or comparable to $1k per month.. 34 condos are under construction in the Whites Building because Broad street is very a desirable place to live..

I still haven't heard anyone mention an actual crime on Broad street or Downtown... A few people standing around who look scary to you isn't an actual crime... The problem may be you're prejudice against certain types of people...

Riverman1
82271
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Riverman1 06/13/11 - 11:29 am
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Willow said "types" of

Willow said "types" of people. She implied nothing about a certain "type" of people. To say she is predjudiced without cause is wrong.

Brad Owens
4290
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Brad Owens 06/13/11 - 11:34 am
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countryman, are you calling

countryman, are you calling Willow a bigot?

Brad Owens
4290
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Brad Owens 06/13/11 - 11:42 am
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The fact is, most decent

The fact is, most decent folks would not like the "types" you encounter downtown along the lower end of Broad and the ones hanging around the Summit either.

Riverman1
82271
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Riverman1 06/13/11 - 11:45 am
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Glad to see Countyman changed

Glad to see Countyman changed his post a little, but I'd encourage him to look at it even again. When you accuse people of being predjudiced against certain types, you are on thin ice. You read into her comments (that she hasn't changed) something far different than her intent.

countyman
19719
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countyman 06/13/11 - 12:59 pm
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I didn't change the part of

I didn't change the part of the comment you're focused on.. Actually you're reading too much into my comment.. I think you're mind automatically jumped to race.. I didn't call anyone a bigot on here either.. I also made sure to use the word 'maybe' in the sentence..

Riverman.. If someone is afraid of a person they've never met before? What do you call it??

Brad.. I've never said anything concerning who decent people want to be around or not.. I understand the comment on the lower end of Broad street. But let's not forget Luigis is probably the most popular restaurant downtown or atleast in the top 3.. The lower end needs work but's it not dangerous because it's in need or repair..

justthefacts
21359
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justthefacts 06/13/11 - 12:55 pm
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"Riverman.. When afraid of

"Riverman.. When afraid of people you don't know because they look scary? What do you call it??". Cautious? Careful? Judicious?

justthefacts
21359
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justthefacts 06/13/11 - 12:58 pm
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Countyman reworded the post

Countyman reworded the post previous to mine.

Riverman1
82271
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Riverman1 06/13/11 - 01:14 pm
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Lots of changing comments

Lots of changing comments going on and maybe that's a good thing if it sounds bad. Thanks, Justthefacts.

Countyman, it's okay. Relax. We understand.

Riverman1
82271
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Riverman1 06/13/11 - 01:16 pm
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"If someone is afraid of a

"If someone is afraid of a person they've never met before? What do you call it??"

Obama's grandmother?

edubb
10
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edubb 06/13/11 - 02:53 pm
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The comments from the

The comments from the students in the article says it all. "People come here to go to school and leave" WOW....

Brad Owens
4290
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Brad Owens 06/13/11 - 05:14 pm
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Do all the students who go to

Do all the students who go to UGA stay and work in Athens?

Riverman1
82271
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Riverman1 06/13/11 - 06:51 pm
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Brad, wasn't that a hilarious

Brad, wasn't that a hilarious "wow"? LOL

bclicious
676
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bclicious 06/14/11 - 08:36 am
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Countyman, You are wrong for

Countyman,

You are wrong for mentioning the gay pride festival!

stillamazed
1488
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stillamazed 06/14/11 - 09:10 am
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I have always thought that

I have always thought that downtown and the riverfront area could be very cool if the city could stop bickering about racial things and think about the betterment of Augusta. Augusta really could be a hip place downtown, hopefully the council will see this and learn from it. More restaurants on the riverfront and dinner cruises would be very nice. I also agree with the transportation ideas. I love going to the riverfront in Savannah and Charleston and Augusta could be doing some of the same things as these other cities.

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