Eloise Murray has watched her neighborhood slowly fade away. Fellow residents are elderly, and people aren’t moving into the area known for crime and boarded-up buildings.
“A lot of the houses are where seniors raised their children,” she said. “The seniors passed on. Their descendants are not coming back into the area and have no desire to come back.”
Murray, who lives on Wooten Road just off 15th Street, said it’s a good idea for Augusta to revitalize the area. She attended a meeting Tuesday night at T.W. Josey High School intended to gather community input on the forthcoming project.
Using a $1.8 million grant, the city is studying an expansive section of the urban area from 15th Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Deans Bridge Road.
The corridor runs from downtown near Georgia Health Sciences University to south Augusta’s vacant Regency Mall.
The meeting kicked off a weeklong workshop for residents and stakeholders to discuss needs for housing, retail, parks, jobs and transportation. The findings and recommendations will be presented Saturday.
The massive revitalization project will reverse negative trends by improving infrastructure and building affordable “green” housing, said Adam Williamson, of Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh and Associates, an Atlanta planning firm that serves as the project manager.
“We are an advocate for the community to make 15th Street look like what you want it to look like,” Williamson said.
Small steps, such as planting trees close to the street, widening sidewalks and installing bike racks, can attract development, he said.
Planned improvements to the area include a state project to widen 15th Street from Milledgeville Road to Government Road, which could begin as early as 2016.
The Augusta Housing Authority plans to demolish the Cherry Tree Crossing public housing project to build a mixed-income development.
Joseph Kohl, of project consultant Dover, Kohl and Partners, said 15th Street needs to connect the neighborhood to GHSU and Paine College. Directly beyond the campuses, a bridge over Wrightsboro Road and railroad tracks are eyesores, he said.
“That bridge – its appearance – is the biggest thing that’s going to stop economic development from popping over the tracks,” Kohl said.