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Talks focus on connecting Laney-Walker area, downtown

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Connecting the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods to downtown Augusta’s business district was a focus of discussion at roundtable meetings Monday, the first day of a three-day conference to develop a sustainability program for the area.

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Mayor Deke Copenhaver speaks with Augusta Greenway Alliance Director Bob Munger (from left), development manager John Stout, mayor's assistant Karyn Nixon and Boston architect Michael Davis during a meeting about revitalizing the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem areas.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Mayor Deke Copenhaver speaks with Augusta Greenway Alliance Director Bob Munger (from left), development manager John Stout, mayor's assistant Karyn Nixon and Boston architect Michael Davis during a meeting about revitalizing the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem areas.

A panel commissioned by the American Institute of Architects reviewed the master redevelopment plan for Laney-Walker and Bethlehem with key members in the revitalization project.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Planning Director George Patty, Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell and Sustainable Development Manager John Paul Stout were among the city’s representatives.

“A lot of groundwork has been done inside this boundary,” said Michael Davis, a Boston architect and the conference’s team leader. “The development team said to us, ‘How do we take this to the next level?’”

Augusta was one of seven cities that received a grant from the institute for the sustainability program. The $15,000 grant was supplemented by a $5,000 contribution from the city.

In 2008, the city began a massive revitalization initiative in Laney-Walker and Bethlehem to replace blight with development. A special 50-year hotel/motel tax that generates $750,000 a year funds the $38.5 million public investment.

Davis said R.A. Dent Boulevard acts as a physical and cultural barrier between the bustling Georgia Health Sciences University and a dilapidated neighborhood.

He also said more development on Ninth and 12th streets would help connect downtown and Laney-Walker.

Copenhaver said the lower level of the Augusta Canal is a logical connecting point between the business district and Laney-Walker.

Entertainment and arts investments should also extend beyond Broad Street into Laney-Walker, he said.

Also participating Mon­day were Bob Munger, the director of the nonprofit Augusta Greenway Alliance; Historic Augusta Executive Director Erick Montgomery; Christine Miller-Betts, the director of the Lucy Craft La­ney Museum of Black His­to­ry; residents; architects; and real estate agents.

Participants cited a lack of transportation infrastructure, bus service, public safety and retail in the neighborhoods.

Discussions also continued about a perceived disconnect between the city’s vision for transforming the area and community involvement, especially with longtime residents.


The panel will deliver its findings and make recommendations for a sustainability program in Augusta on Wednesday night. The community meeting will be held at the downtown Augusta library, 823 Telfair St., from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

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Lori Davis
Lori Davis 06/25/12 - 08:30 pm
City Transportation is a

City Transportation is a problem and one thing we do know is that the portion of the hotel/motel tax that is supposed to go toward transportation is being hijacked by the TEE Center against ordinance. Exposure is paramount when it comes to the problems of this city. How much longer can city leaders continue to get away with illegal actions?

Riverman1 06/26/12 - 06:12 am
Dr. Heywood Sanders Should be on Committee

The problem is most of the city's money for rejuvenation has been poured into one hotel on the Riverwalk. Transportation gets nothing. Dr. Heywood Sanders should be on the committee. Google if you don't know him.

It's becoming painfully obvious, the assets of the city have been given to one hotel, The Marriott. They essentially own the TEE center and parking deck the city built for them, plus we pour hundreds of thousands of dollars a year into their marketing. The marketing is done for one hotel, The Marriott, not the others in town. Does the Marriott give anything or even pay taxes on the food and alcohol they sell at the convention center? No wonder that hotel was given a Marriott franchise.

The yearly $750,000 we give to the Laney Walker clean-up may actually be a good thing in comparison to giving one hotel $50 million, plus paying them to manage a facility only they will be making money utilizing in addition to paying for their marketing.

But as the commercial says, wait there's more. Fred Russell throws in $850,000 to meet their air handling requests, plus free garage parking. And if they complain enough right now they also get kitchen equipment absolutely free that only they can use. Yearly installments to manage the TEE and parking deck will be thrown in for perpetuity. Get out your credit card right now.

Riverman1 06/26/12 - 12:39 pm
In Defense of the Marriott

You know, I'm going to say one thing in defense of the owners of the Marriott. I can't fault them for being superb business people and squeezing every dime they can from this dysfunctional administrator and city government. You would be foolish not to use their ineptness.

raul 06/26/12 - 01:29 pm
Countyman, your thoughts on

Countyman, your thoughts on connecting LW with the CBD?

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