Safety, walkability and employment are a few issues residents of the 15th Street-Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard-Deans Bridge Road corridor told project leaders they want addressed in a new master plan.
After a week of meetings between residents and stakeholders, drafts of a proposed redesign were presented to the public at T.W. Josey High School on Saturday.
About 30 people attended the meeting and gave feedback using keypad polling devices. Most of the feedback was positive.
John Paul Stout, Augusta’s sustainable development manager, said more than 350 residents participated in the process over the week.
Renderings of the proposed streetscapes include wider roads, more streetlights and bus stops, bike lanes and tree-lined sidewalks, especially along 15th Street in the area of Cherry Tree Crossing.
Two designs were proposed at the intersection of 15th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. One included a roundabout to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Both included a new centerpiece building with greenspace on the corner where a gas station now stands.
The Southgate shopping center would be reconfigured to include a bus substation, more trees and walkable access from surrounding neighborhoods.
In the Rocky Creek area, a series of lakes would alleviate flooding and create potential for recreation. A farm would provide access to fresh produce, for which residents expressed a desire.
The area provides the best option for safe senior housing, which could be developed alongside single-family dwellings and retail space.
“What we’re hearing about the mall from the community is ‘Do anything, just do something,’ ” said Joe Kohl of Dover, Kohl & Partners Town Planning.
Any concrete plans for that land hinges on the city acquiring it. Taking it over via eminent domain would require the space to be used for a public purpose – such as a sports complex – which might not be the best use, Kohl said.
The biggest concerns from residents in attendance were about the people who cause problems in these areas.
Former Cherry Tree area resident Alicia Harris said she feels that as long as those people stay in the neighborhood, and as long as the people who live there refuse to take pride in their homes, any work to beautify the area will be futile.
“No matter how beautiful they make it, it’s not going to stay that way,” Harris said.
Property owner Jay Delley expressed the same concerns.
“Overall it’s a good thing. I hope the motive isn’t to develop the area around the college and then forget about the outlying areas. I hope they’re going to give us more meat on how they’re going to take care of people,” he said.
More information about the project is available at augustasustainable.com.