Revitalization project requires more collaboration, experts say

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The future of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods depends on a single key factor: a city working together.

An expert panel commissioned by the American Institute of Architects to develop a sustainability program for the city’s massive revitalization project for the area said city leaders, project managers, residents, church leaders and nonprofit groups must collaborate better than they do now.

“That will communicate this is not a particular group’s project. It is Augusta’s project,” said Don Edwards, a panel member and the CEO of Justice and Sustainability Associates. “If we can’t deliver this project, that message of not achieving that opportunity will reverberate around Augusta not being able to collaborate.”

Augusta is one of seven cities to receive a $15,000 grant from the institute for the sustainability program.

At a community meeting Wednesday night, about 30 people heard the panel’s recommendations, which were developed after two prior meetings.

The panel agreed that the project is necessary for bringing people back into the city’s urban core, a trend seen nationally. The area has potential to attract new markets, retail and residents.

The panel recommended that the plan’s urban design include a community park surrounded by retail space on Laney-Walker Boulevard, a canal walk and a transit and walking trail along R.A. Dent Boulevard.

In 2008, the city began a 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.

For more than 400 vacant homes in poor condition, the panel suggested “deconstructing” rather than demolishing the homes.

Deconstructing homes means using sustainable techniques such
as selling scrap materials and then using vacant land to generate business, such as a landscape company or nursery.

Deconstructing the homes allows economic growth while planning for future housing, the panel said.

None of the recommendations have been adopted for implementation.

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HighSociety 06/27/12 - 11:45 pm
We recently had a

We recently had a conversation about this project. I recall someone saying this area was already booming. Just as i thought thats not the case. It's going to take the people in that area deciding they want a better life. I hope they are successful. I would love to see that area reach its potential.

countyman 06/28/12 - 11:29 am
Who said the area was

Who said the area was booming??? I only remember saying it's heading in the right direction...

The facts are the developments have added over $3 million the local tax base so far...

The project continues to attract national and statewide recognition in the year 2012(New Partners for Smart Growth, Triple Pundit, American Planning Association, American Architectural Foundation, Harvard Student Journal of Real Estate, Southern Living, and Georgia Planning Implementation Award)..

The city started the progress, and now private developers are interested(1220 12th st: former orphanage into housing)....

David Parker
David Parker 06/28/12 - 01:04 pm
“If we can’t deliver this

“If we can’t deliver this project, that message of not achieving that opportunity will reverberate around Augusta not being able to collaborate.”

Good quote. Success means more than immediate return in $ bills. It sets the bar for future progress. Get it done yall!

Bulldog 09/19/12 - 08:45 am

Until the issue of CRIME is addressed, nothing is ever going to lure people back into our urban areas. CRIME is the reason Richmond County continues to lose it's middle class. If you want good people to come back to our blighted urban centers, then CRIME has got to be addressed in a completely differnt way. Community Policing seems to fit this bill. Our county commission has got to get on board by funding the sheriff in a meaningful way.

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