The recent events that occurred downtown late at night have prompted their usual and customary media frenzy, coupled with seemingly upstanding citizens voicing their disdain for our community with a rather sickening sense of swagger.
OK. We downtown citizens are used to these reactions, and we can handle them. So, when someone, who will remain anonymous, called my general attitude toward downtown “nauseatingly positive,” I did two things. First, I had a good laugh because, quite frankly, I’ve been called worse than that in my lifetime. Second, I took it and ran with it.
I MEAN, THINK about that term. It’s genius: blunt, to the point and pretty much exactly what I’ve been going for. I just wasn’t able to articulate it so eloquently.
So, why is my attitude toward downtown so positive? Well, let’s take aesthetics and superficiality first.
When I walk down Broad Street and look up, the architecture and bones of this historic district just appeal to my senses. I see old consummated with new in preservation projects and luxury lofts and businesses having found their way into 100-plus-year-old buildings. Who doesn’t love that? You go to New York City’s West Village and walk down Bleecker Street and tell me Broad Street isn’t at least as appealing from an architectural standpoint.
Second, I happen to love working downtown. Casella Eye Center is in its 65th year in the 700 block of Broad Street. I literally make my living on Broad Street, and I’m proud to be a part of things on a street that’s getting a bit younger, a bit trendier, a bit more cosmopolitan and a bit more unique every day.
The occasional pint at Boar’s Head on a nice afternoon when the doors are open to Broad Street is a downtown experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Similarly, rocking outside of the Stillwater Tap Room with a pint of oatmeal stout or loading down your Step Daddy nachos with mango habañero salsa are things you can’t fabricate anywhere else in the CSRA.
NOW, SOMEONE reading this is likely thinking, “What about the panhandlers who come up to you while you’re having that pint?” Well, are most of the few panhandlers downtown patients of mine? Admittedly so. Maybe there’s some secret code that you don’t harass “Dr. Ben.” Likely not so. Therefore, when presented with said situation, I typically offer a generic “God bless you” and move on. I don’t engage in the proverbial wag of the finger and spell out the fact that panhandling is illegal. To me, that’s like telling a pothead that marijuana is illegal. Think about it.
So, having handled that rare situation as mentioned, I go about my day having spent all of two seconds and zero emotion dealing with it.
Third, food downtown is better than it has ever been and, in my opinion, better as a whole than anywhere else in the community. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, delusional or has never had the hanger steak at Frog Hollow Tavern. As well, personally, I
think the red sauce at Eros
Bistro is as good as you’ll find in Augusta.
So, why do I love downtown? Well, simply, because it’s downtown. Ties to Augusta aside, when I go anywhere, I always want to check out what’s happening downtown. I don’t ask “Where’s the nearest place I can supersize a Happy Meal and buy a toaster in the same strip mall?” I already know the answer to that one.
Truly, Corporate America coupled with the perception of high crime (which is just that: perception) has sucked a little bit of soul out of downtown America, but that old forest that was cleared away in, say, the late 1970s – when the malls opened up – gave way to a lush undergrowth that already has become the youthful, lively, and eclectic embodiment of
what a downtown resurgence should be.
SO, IF YOU WANT to gloat about how you never go downtown and only feel safe in the suburbs, do it. This is America, and no one’s going to take your birthday away for doing so. But just know that there are people in Augusta who favor eclectic over generic; unique over cookie-cutter; and solutions over complaints.
(The writer operates a downtown Augusta optometry practice.)