Grounds to celebrate

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The fine folks at the Brookings Institution said Tuesday Augusta has the seventh-most recession-resilient economy in the country.

After Wednesday, they may want to recheck their math.

Area leaders dug ceremonial shovelfuls Wednesday morning to officially break ground for a $38 million trade, exhibit and event center at 9th and Reynolds that will finally put the state's second-largest city onto the large trade show and convention circuit.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver noted some $340 million in ongoing construction projects downtown, including the TEE Center, new judicial center, new library, and Kroc recreational and social service center.

There will also be a new hotel springing up across Reynolds from the TEE Center. And Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham reminded the mayor of another $38 million to be spent in the Laney-Walker area from the special hotel room fee that is helping fund the TEE Center.

How many American cities can boast that much going on in this economy?

And if the ground was turned Wednesday, perhaps a corner was too. You may never have seen city officials here so upbeat or unified -- a scene made all the more remarkable by the fact that final approval of the TEE Center was the biggest political hurdle of the year last year.

Today, however, as new Commissioner Bill Lockett said, "We are one Augusta."

"The tone we're seeing set in Augusta right now is historic," added Commissioner Matt Aitken.

"This is a great day for Augusta," said Commissioner Alvin Mason, as others would repeat. "We're here to celebrate Augusta."

"We're on a roll," Aitken said.

Look around you. How many other places in the country can say that right now?

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johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 06/17/10 - 04:54 am
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The Brookings Institute is a

The Brookings Institute is a hard left anti-capitalist think tank with an obvious socialist, big government agenda. Any complement from this group is an insult to America.

OnlyinAgs
1
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OnlyinAgs 06/17/10 - 05:48 am
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Today, however, as new

Today, however, as new Commissioner Bill Lockett said, "We are one Augusta." is he for real, evidently he doesn't read the chronicle online if he did he wouldn't have said that.

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 06/17/10 - 06:35 am
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THIS is the article that

THIS is the article that should be titled "statistics only tell part of the story".. driving around certain parts of the city, one might think they were in Sarajevo or some other third word dump!

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 09:11 am
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I’m in high spirits too with

I’m in high spirits too with the Brooking Inst. Report, It’s obvious Augusta-Richmond County and the whole metropolitan area are growing. You can look at the private business activity around I-20 - Stevens Creek Rd. and I-20 Belair Rd. that doesn’t use any tax money and you know the economy is great here. Broad St. seems to be doing okay with small restaurants popping up there like Food Lion shopping centers in Columbia County.

However, and you knew this was coming, government spending on the magnitude of the TEE-Laney Walker arrangement does not indicate anything except taxpayer money is being used lightheartedly. The research was not done to support the TEE-Laney Walker pact that taxpayers will be paying for the next 50 years.

Just answer me a couple of questions. Was the deal to build the TEE based on the premise that it would bring in enough shows/conventions to pay for itself in fees, sales taxes and business in the economy? Was the use of Fort Discovery ruled out because the word was passed that a sale to a private concern was imminent?

As far as the Laney Walker half of the arrangement, it's been said enough money will be used there to build everyone a $200,000 house.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 09:10 am
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Riverman, the metro area may

Riverman, the metro area may be growing to some extent.. (growth though is much slower than it has been in the past.. most notably in Columbia County), but census estimates indicate that Augusta has not grown at all in the last 10 years.. and it actually shows more ppl moving out of Augusta them moving in.. and if not for natural population increase (ie births exceeding deaths) then Augusta would have seen close to a 3% loss in population from 2000. As it looks now, we are about dead even where we were in 2000... that's not encouraging, especially if the higher income taxpayers are still leaving the city. As far as The TEE Center, perhaps we will see the media (though I would not expect The AC) do an update on it in a few years and see if it is living up to its predictions.. my hunch is that it will be bleeding money and all of these big time concentions will still not be coming to Augusta.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 09:22 am
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The problem with this, with

The problem with this, with the exception of The Kroc, is that nearly all of these are taxpayer funded projects.. now what would really be cause for celebration is if we had $340 million in PRIVATE investment in downtown..I find it strange that The ACES is celebrating all of this big government spending in lieu of private investment in the economy. Has The Chronicle all of a sudden become a fan of Keynsian economics?

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 09:17 am
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Emery, your population

Emery, your population numbers are true. There is no growth in Richmond County. As far as Columbia County, sure growth has decreased everywhere, but it is fairing much better than most counties across the nation. The population continues to grow, retirees rate it as a great place to retire and another Food Lion went up on the corner near me...ha.

Honestly, downtown Augusta is not going to be a business center again. It's hope is as a government center and entertainment district. Nothing wrong with that.

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 09:30 am
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I left the Kroc Center out

I left the Kroc Center out because private donations paid for it, but it certainly doesn't represent business growth. There was a reason the Kroc Foundation chose downtown Augusta for its gift. There are tens of thousands of poor people who need it.

Again, not saying it's a bad thing, but being realistic. Also, there's nothing wrong with the AC being upbeat. What the heck, hard enough to find anything in downtown Augusta to brag about. That's their job.

Emery, the excuse for the money lost on the TEE in a few years will be "It's not big enough. We need another $50 million."

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 09:28 am
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yes.. riverman.. even though

yes.. riverman.. even though the Kroc was paid for with public donations.. its not exactly the same thing as if say a big fortune 500 company built their HQ on Broad Street. As long as Augusta is dependent on tax payer and charity funded spending projects then we are not going to see the vibrant city that the hypsters and spinmeisters keep predicting. I've been waiting for this supposed boom in Augusta for over 35 years..And hundreds of millions in public tax spending has yet to usher it in. But hey, it does provide great photo opps for politicians

ohhsweetconcord
3
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ohhsweetconcord 06/17/10 - 09:41 am
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A bunch of cynics you are. If

A bunch of cynics you are. If we want downtown Augusta to grow we have to spend money on it. Public spending are the only available funds right now. Where exactly is private investment going to come from in this economy?

To get greater private investment, Augusta has to show investors that the city is serious about our downtown as a cultural and living center. The greater number of buildings in use the better. The reason why the Kroc center chose downtown Augusta is because they saw that a center could really help revitalize Augusta. Why would they spend all that money on a lost cause?

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 10:10 am
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Ohhsweetconcord, no, we are

Ohhsweetconcord, no, we are realists who understand when the public's money is being ripped off. The Kroc Foundation is a charity to help the poor is why they are doing it and we sure have lots of poor. They are not into it to revitalize anything.

By the way, check out the other convention centers and see how our tiny one will compare as the whole convention-trade show business declines.
http://www.cvent.com/en/destination-guide/us-convention-centers.shtml

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 10:30 am
0
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I'm all for revitalizing

I'm all for revitalizing downtown and investiong in it.. but what this will do is divert $38 million in tax money to just another boondoggle like The Golf Hall of Fame.. exactly how many tourists and how much private investment did that colossal waste bring to downtown? Take a walk around.. Look at the sorry state of upkeep downtown.. the utter lack of code enforcement, the nearly nonexistant and user unfriendly public transit system, the deplorable state of the riverwalk, the broken sidewalks, the trash everywhere. I don't know about you, but I think visitors to Augusta might be rather turned off by all of this. Money doesn't grow on trees, so when yous epnd it, you must spend it wisely. We have not seen that in Augusta.

ohhsweetconcord
3
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ohhsweetconcord 06/17/10 - 11:50 am
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The TEE Center will never end

The TEE Center will never end up as poorly used as the Golf Hall of Fame. I just don't see that. That new Hyatt and current Marriot, when combined with the TEE center, will do a great job of building up the nicest area of downtown. Yes, we need more money spent on public transit and upkeep but I see downtown Augusta already improving in that aspect. Look back 10 years ago and see how much progress that area has made.

I see this as part of a long term strategy to build up the Riverwalk area. I'm guessing the downtown baseball stadium will be next, though I'm still a little weary about that. I'd rather them build a part of ASU campus right there and then sell off the rest of it to private investors. Build cheap housing, high rises. Get people living and walking around downtown. Continue the gentrification procress.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 12:35 pm
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sweetconcord.. wish I could

sweetconcord.. wish I could agree with you there.. but if you look at the reality of the convention business today I think your mind will change. These things are simply not good investments. There has been a sharp decline in conventions.. and 3rd tier markets face the toughest sell.. and simply building more space isn't the answer. Ask Columbus how much they are filling their convention center up? Just because one city makes a bad investment doesn't mean we should follow suit. The Brookings Report study on this topic had tons of facts and figures showing how these things rarely lived up to their hype. Savannah is even having to offer big discounts to fill their space..and Savannah is a destination city. Augusta is not and will not be a tourist city, I don't care how much money you spend on convention space. But to me what has really helped downtown are the festivals.. those have a much bigger payoff for the investment. Imagine how many more ppl would consider coming downtown more often to dine and shop if they felt safe and could park their car without fear of it being vandalized. But these basic needs are never addressed. I would like to see Augusta be a livable city.. not a city in a vain pursuit of being a tourist trap. That's just not who we are. We have tried this so many times with Fort Discovery, Golf Hall of Fame and several other things.. they just don't work.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 12:39 pm
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I see The Miller as a good

I see The Miller as a good investment.. it will be used and will be a foacl point for downtown. Downtown can become a cultural and entertainment district.. that's a direction to go. How much do we spend on First Friday? Not all that much at all.. but look at the economic impact it has had.. far more than all of these big boondoggles that sap up our resources.

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 05:09 pm
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That's right, the study by

That's right, the study by the TX A&M professor critical of more convention centers being built was published by this same Brookings Inst. How ironic when it is being used to show the growth of Augusta.

But, like Emerydan, I want to see downtown Augusta do well. I love it and the rest of the CSRA. Emery presents a good view of how to do things and I'm pretty much on the same page.

Here is my opinion how to help the downtown area and make conventions work. First, create an atmosphere like Aiken has in their downtown. Clean, safe, quaint shopping, restaurants and bars. They draw all kinds of visitors simply because the downtown is so....well, perfect. Do that and THEN build a convention center. People would want to come to a city with a great downtown on the river.

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 06/17/10 - 05:03 pm
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I agree with you, Riverman,

I agree with you, Riverman, but imagine what it would take to bring that to fruition! Augusta hasn't got it!

countyman
21630
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countyman 06/17/10 - 05:21 pm
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Even a blind person can see

Even a blind person can see all the new neighborhoods and neighborhoods under construction?

Some people keep trying to use the 2000 census. But don't want to look at the 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 census and compare it with the 2009 population. Because it shows Augusta-Richmond county and Richmond county are both growing....

countyman
21630
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countyman 06/17/10 - 05:22 pm
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Augusta has the 7th best

Augusta has the 7th best economy in the country. But the main county in the metro isn't growing??? Please get for real...

Sargebaby
4693
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Sargebaby 06/17/10 - 05:24 pm
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Countyman, the entire CSRA is

Countyman, the entire CSRA is growing, but you are blinded by your own ambitions. The growth is not focused on a single area of Richmond County, but on all areas of every county in the CSRA. Your aggressive farming techniques do not work on a forum, sir!

ohhsweetconcord
3
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ohhsweetconcord 06/17/10 - 05:38 pm
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Emery and River, you guys

Emery and River, you guys make some really valid points but I think you guys forget what city we're living in. We have a hard enough time getting even the boondoggles done. In this case, the TEE Center is a valuable additive to the downtown experience, even if its only use is on paper. We have to keep tipping the scales in favor of downtown and eventually the private investment will start pouring in.

My main argument is this: the council could do much, much worse. As for public safety, I'm not sure the city could spend enough money to make that area safe enough. With the current population residing there, it is just too hard. You have to get them to move out and get young people to move in. They care a lot less about their safety!

countyman
21630
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countyman 06/17/10 - 06:00 pm
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I have never said the growth

I have never said the growth is isloated to one area. The entire CSRA is growing...

Comparing Augusta's tourism to Columbus is a joke. Augusta set hotel revenue records in 2008 and 2009. How could AUG do that without millions of visitors every year??

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 06:02 pm
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The difference in opinion we

The difference in opinion we have is analgous to the Denver Airport construction. Denver thought if they built a mega airport the flights would come. They didn't.

The problem is that we have to first give people a reason to visit before building the airport. I'd have made a white water kayak attraction on the river first. That would have attracted so many visitors and spinoffs that a convention center would have worked.

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 07:38 pm
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One thing many miss is that

One thing many miss is that many more wealthy people visit the CSRA than most realize. The southern society, weather, golf, horses, hunting, the river and sailing on the lake have had the mega rich coming for a long time.

Sure, much of it spins off from the Augusta National, but not all of it. The wealthiest have been coming here for a hundred years. There's a reason the richest person in the world has a house in Augusta.

Riverman1
93645
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Riverman1 06/17/10 - 07:52 pm
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Countyman, nothing wrong with

Countyman, nothing wrong with your enthusiasm, but the Richmond County hotel revenue growth is in West Augusta at I-20-Wash. Rd and around the 520-Gordon Hwy interchange.

countyman
21630
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countyman 06/17/10 - 10:02 pm
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520/Gordon Hwy interchange is

520/Gordon Hwy interchange is South Augusta. But a $30 million 8 story Hyatt is going downtown on Reynolds street. A $5-10 million Holiday Inn and Express is going at the entrance of Olde Town.

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