The cause of the early-morning fire that damaged the three-story building at 1162 Broad St. is still unknown. Investigators say arson could be one of several causes.
Regardless of cause, damage to any downtown building – especially an occupied, well-maintained, 103-year-old structure – strikes an unexpected left hook to commerce and aesthetics in the Central Business District. But this should not dissuade further investment in downtown Augusta. Downtown has long passed the point where a single incident is capable of derailing the revitalization efforts that began building momentum two decades ago.
As Downtown Development Authority Chairman Cameron Nixon wrote on these pages last month, 2013 was a banner year for economic development in the district, which, in addition to a robust commercial scene, boasts a 96 percent residential occupancy rate.
Improvements will continue this year, as more than $2 million in streetscape projects will beautify the James Brown Boulevard corridor and Riverwalk Augusta. Five buildings within a one-block radius of the recently opened Augusta Convention Center have been purchased by investors interested in renovating the properties into residential and retail space.
We are confident, too, that 1162 Broad St. will be renovated and returned to occupancy, as the property is owned through a family partnership of downtown stalwart Julian Osbon, a businessman with a long history of investment in the Central Business District.
There simply are too many dedicated stakeholders in downtown’s revival to allow this fire to be a setback. The literal fire at 12th and Broad streets has been extinguished, but the metaphorical one that fuels downtown development likely will stay lit.