Project attracts business to 15th Street, official says

Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 8:53 PM
Last updated Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 1:54 AM
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Fifteen small businesses, five large developers and at least two major companies have expressed interest in opening along the 15th Street corridor after an award-winning project funded by federal and state grants provided a vision for a place residents say is underserved, one city official said this week.

John Paul Stout, the manager of the Au­gus­ta Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Impleme­n­ta­tion Pro­gram, said several business are interested in coming to the 15th Street corridor.  Special
John Paul Stout, the manager of the Au­gus­ta Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Impleme­n­ta­tion Pro­gram, said several business are interested in coming to the 15th Street corridor.

“This is an area of enormous potential that’s waiting to be tapped,” John Paul Stout, the manager of the Au­gus­ta Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Impleme­n­ta­tion Pro­gram.

The project’s 4.5-mile study area runs from downtown to the Re­gen­cy Mall area along 15th Street, Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Boule­vard and Deans Bridge Road.

Stout would not provide specific details on the interested parties because the project remains in its final stages, but he said the businesses include distribution, pharmacy, school expansion, and grocery and fresh food.

According to the program’s final report, released in No­vember, project consultants are establishing a code for the district that’s based more on a building’s appearance than its use.

The code’s concept was developed in the early 1990s in response to urban sprawl, deterioration of historic neighborhoods and neglect of pedestrian safety in new development, and it operates more on municipal regulation and less on land-use policy.

Project findings show 45 percent of the land surrounding 15th Street is zoned for business or light industrial purposes, 16 percent is vacant or undeveloped, and more than 93 percent is less than 1 acre.

Stout said those demographics show the 15th Street corridor is built to support small business.

“People want amenities,” he said. “It’s a food desert out there.”

Stout was hired to lead the project in 2011, one year after Augusta was chosen as one of 10 cities nationwide for a $1.8 million combination grant from the state transportation and federal Housing and Urban Develop­ment departments. Thousands applied for the grant, which expires at the end of February.

Augusta’s project, which earned the Georgia Planning Association’s Outstanding Project of the Year in 2013, was completed two months ahead of schedule and returned $291,000 to the state and $21,000 to the federal government, Stout said.

“That success demonstrates fiscal responsibility and hopefully puts us in a better place to receive federal funding in the future,” he said.

The project began gaining steam in October 2012 when the first of a dozen community forums were held for residents to provide input on how their community should look and how the city could help to make that vision a reality.

The community started with expanding the state’s plan for widening 15th Street to include sidewalks, bike lanes, bus stops and street lighting.

A survey of the area showed missing sidewalks between Martin Luther King Jr. and Essie McIntyre boulevards. In areas with sidewalks, pavement was overgrown with weeds, passed through parking lots or was obstructed by signs, utility poles and fire hydrants.

The widening is paid for by special purpose local option sales tax dollars and is scheduled to begin as early as 2016.

Next, the project spent $75,000 to offer home management classes, bring in job recruiters and provide parents six months of free child care at Shiloh Community Cen­ter to help people find jobs and afford nicer housing.

Lastly, the project paid for a $24,000 mural on the Rosa T. Beard Memorial Bridge.

According to the recommendations, the city needs to spend $111,000 to add inspection staff and hold foreclosure proceedings for about 60 vacant or dilapidated homes each year, and develop high-performance building incentives.

“The final reports are getting the bows tied on them right now,” Stout said. “It is up to the commission on which regulatory changes they would like to make.”

As for Stout, he is unsure about what his future holds. His job, which pays $58,000 annually, will end when the project grant expires Feb. 28.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I had a job of giving the people traditionally underserved a voice and I am extremely grateful for the city allowing me to serve that role.”

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Riverman1 01/11/14 - 08:41 am
Another Bureaucrat

"John Paul Stout, the manager of the Au­gus­ta Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Impleme­n­ta­tion Pro­gram."

I see his job ends in Feb. But just how many programs does Augusta have like this? We know that Copenhaver's project that pays Matt Kwatinetz is doing something like that, but nobody knows what he makes or what he does. There are numerous similar programs, agencies and studies doing the same thing. Honestly, I've seen few results from all these programs paying bureaucrats to do little.

By the way does Magnolia, LLC own property on 15th St.? We found out it does in Laney Walker the other day.

geecheeriverman 01/11/14 - 10:57 am
Charles Walker

This project is scheduled just in time for Charles Walker to be released back into the community. Maybe he can start another enterprise in the area, I know he owned property there at one time.

seenitB4 01/11/14 - 11:15 am

The people need JOBS...decent paying JOBS..

They could make some good decisions on their own with the JOBS!

Bulldog 01/11/14 - 11:25 am
We all keep hoping....

We all keep hoping that one of those developments is a grocery store that can serve the urban Augusta residents. When the 15 St. Kroger goes, there will be nothing left on the GA side of the river.

countyman 01/11/14 - 12:47 pm
15th street

The city of Augusta received the $1.8 million grant because we created the Richmond County master plan and the funding already existed.
1. Cherry Tree redevelopment
2. GADOT 15th street widening
3. GRU Cancer Center
4. Paine College new dorms
5. MCG Foundation plans

The MCG Foundation has major plans for the bus depot, surrounding property, and Kroger shopping center this year(Walmart market, hotel, other retailers, greenspace, and restaurants)..

The growth will bring another mixed-use development possibly to the CBD or Medical District(featuring an grocery store)..

Sweet son
Sweet son 01/11/14 - 02:55 pm
Charles Walker LOL!

Maybe he can get his sidewalk crew back together for the 15th Street sidewalks. Remember when he bilked the county out of a lot of money for unnecessary sidewalks?

corgimom 01/11/14 - 05:04 pm
Those GRANTS aren't free, and

Those GRANTS aren't free, and I'm getting tired of paying for them!

Before you cut services to poor people, cut those grants!

GnipGnop 01/12/14 - 08:18 pm
Who is this we stuff Kemosabe?

How much will these studies and political payoffs affect your property taxes? Why are tax dollars being spent on for profit private businesses?

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