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Laney-Walker, Bethlehem residents see changes as positive

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Clara Hornsby wants to know when the bulldozer is coming to demolish houses next door and across the street.

Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant director of the city's Housing and Community Development Department, speaks at a community meeting about the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem projects.  MEG MIRSHAK/STAFF
Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant director of the city's Housing and Community Development Department, speaks at a community meeting about the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem projects.

Hornsby, who lives with her husband on Twiggs Street in the Bethlehem neighborhood, doesn’t want to stop the wrecking ball. She’s happy that vagrants won’t have abandoned houses to make their own, but she wants to watch out when raccoons and other wild animals scatter.

“I just want to be prepared so I don’t wake up one morning and they’re gone,” she said.

Hornsby and about 40 others attended a community meeting Tuesday night on the city’s massive investment revitalizing the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods. A special 50-year hotel/motel tax that generates $750,000 a year funds the $38.5 million public investment.

Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant director of Augusta Housing and Community Development, explained upcoming housing construction in four key areas: Wrightsboro Road and Pine, Holley and Twiggs streets.

“We’re definitely happy where we are here in 2012,” Welcher said.

In the next four months, 27 dilapidated structures will be demolished, pending approval from the Georgia State Historic Preservation Division. Some properties will be left as green space, Welcher said.

Hornsby said her block of Twiggs Street is nearly empty. Many former residents have died, and their descendants aren’t waiting for the neighborhood to turn around, she said.

“Some people who lived down there probably won’t come back. They won’t be able to afford to,” she said.

Hornsby, however, isn’t thinking about leaving. Her husband’s family has deep roots in the neighborhood. They live next to the historic W.S. Hornsby House, built in 1916.

The city and the Augusta Housing Authority plan to build single-family homes, duplexes and senior housing around the Hornsbys.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Janet Guyton wanted answers about flooding on Holley Street, which she said became worse when new houses were built. Her home of 15 years is sandwiched between two new houses.

Guyton, who was initially skeptical about the city project, said she welcomes the improvements if they don’t create more problems. She’s even willing to pay higher taxes caused by higher home values.

“If you’re going to build up your neighborhood, you’re going to have to pay,” she said.

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countyman 09/25/12 - 11:16 pm
The Laney Walker/Bethlehem

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem development is one of the greatest things ever accomplish by the city of Augusta.. The numerous statewide/national recognition proves many people are watching the city of Augusta this decade.. The proximity of LW/Bethlehem to the CBD/Medical District, and GRU taking over the 17 acre GGHF property must equal destiny...

I'm hoping the people who continue to bring up 'taxpayer' money read the article... They seem to forget the money is coming from the local tourist visiting Augusta...

I don't think either Laney Walker or Harrisburg will catch up to Olde Town this decade, but it'll be an interesting fight between them... The Kroc Center is bringing additional trafic into the neighborhood, and Harrisburg is already benefiting... The Cookout is opening at 1801 Walton Way(empty lot between Burger King and Shell gas station; Walton Way/Crawford Ave intersection), and the Walmart neighborhood market/other amenities is coming right next door between Harrisburg/Medical District... Now they only need the Sibley Mill to be renovated, and a few businesses to open along Broad...

Bulldog 09/26/12 - 08:56 am
Accelerate Revitalization

We could greatly accelerate revitalization in all of Augusta's urban areas if we could get a chronic nusance property ordinance into place. The basic issue is bad people taking advantage of those who are powerless to protect themselves or their property...

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