One piece at a time

Executing Augusta's Master Plan will take public work, private commitments -- and many years

  • Follow Editorials

Archaeologists estimate that Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza took at least 20 years to build through the nearly nonstop labor of between 20,000 and 30,000 workers.

The Great Wall of China, with several sections sprawling across more than 5,500 miles, was constructed by several ruling dynasties over about 2,000 years.

It’s a fact – civic improvements can take a long time.

Then there’s Augusta’s Master Plan – the sprawling package of 68 projects designed to change the landscape of Augusta and North Augusta.

Now, of course we’re not offering up an apples-to-apples comparison between two wonders of the world and, say, the renovation of Sutherland Mill near the Augusta Canal.

And any undertaking that involves taxpayers’ dollars deserves healthy skepticism. If citizens think this much-talked-up project is moving too slowly, they deserve an explanation why.

As Camille Price will tell you, executing a master plan isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.

Price is executive director of Augusta Tomorrow. When she embarked on that job in 2001, her task was to oversee the implementation of an Augusta master plan begun in 1982 that unfolded over the next 25 years. That’s the plan that yielded Riverwalk Augusta, the Jessye Norman Amphitheater, a renovated Lamar Building and a riverfront hotel, among many other projects.

Now she’s running a network of volunteers to complete the current Master Plan unveiled in February 2009. So is progress – well, is it progressing?

Anyone who read the exhaustive list published in The Augusta Chronicle May 27 can see clearly the accomplishments so far. It’s just that it’s taking place with deliberate speed.

“Each proposed project undergoes an extensive assessment to make sure that it is ready for development,” Price said.

Properties slated for improvement have to be extensively reviewed. It’s a long process during which officials have to figure out what they have to work with; what needs to be added; what needs to be taken away; and who pays for it and how.

After that analysis, an implementation team examines similar projects to integrate their most successful aspects into Augusta’s project. Then there’s the market analysis, to ferret out a project’s strengths, weaknesses and other opportunities.

As we said, it’s a long process. It’s a vetting procedure they strive to follow with every project in the master plan.

Some impediments can be beyond planners’ control.

“One of the main reasons for the progress not taking place faster has been the national recession and the difficulty in bringing in private investment due to the current lending climate,” Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said. “One of the difficulties with the plan as laid out is that it calls for a tremendous amount of public financing, which is not easy to come by these days.”

That can’t be emphasized enough. Civic undertakings on this scale require a tremendous public buy-in – not only with hearts and minds, but with dollars and cents. Just look at the Salvation Army’s remarkable Kroc Center. That wouldn’t have happened without more than $22 million raised right here in the Augusta area.

The city should explore every way

possible to incentivize private investment into shouldering more of the efforts of the master plan.

The term “master plan” has been a buzzword around here for decades. Georgia Gov. Herman Talmadge signed a bill into law in 1947 establishing a zoning commission for Augusta that would be tasked with developing “a master plan for the physical development of the county.” Ever since then, local government officials have been pursuing one plan or another. Plans start. Some stop. Some overlap.

Sometimes parts of a master plan, for reasons financial or
logistical, simply don’t materialize. Did you know that, under the 1982 master plan, the Imperial Theatre was slated to be demolished to make room for an office park? Or that there were plans for a full-scale replica of the 18th-century Fort Augusta as a tourist attraction?

But that’s part of the nature of civic planning. As we’ve said before, cities aren’t static. They change. Circumstances change. And when they do, master plans – and the planners who administer them – have to adapt. And that eats up more time.

“This is a 20-to-25-year plan, and it has that length because of the complicated projects in the plan,” Price said. “Often it takes a number of years for any one project to happen.”

Slow and steady is what wins in civic development– and the city should be encouraged to keep their eye on the ball in navigating this 2009 Master Plan to a successful, prosperous conclusion.

But citizens shouldn’t confuse slow and steady with no movement at all.

Comments (21) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 06/10/12 - 02:03 am
5
1
Man, that last sentence left

Man, that last sentence left me with the juvenile notion that what Augusta politics and government needs is... Imodium.

I'm thinking maybe its an unconscious metaphor for the upcoming election.

Even mentioning the Pyramids of Giza is a stretch ya'll. I bet the Augusta Historic Society will end up having to rescue the Ruffin House after 100 years or so. Thats if the roof doesn't fall in or it turns out to be repossessed by Wells Fargo.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 06/10/12 - 02:08 am
5
1
#DangItDeke #[filtered word]Russell you

#DangItDeke #[filtered word]Russell you can go ahead and tell that to Ripken when he comes a-beggin' for a sweatheart deal from the city.

"Oh poo. The political climate isn't ripe for the public financing of private investments. "

desertcat6
1140
Points
desertcat6 06/10/12 - 03:34 am
6
0
Lets not forget all those

Lets not forget all those other master planning terms that begin to impact cost as you stirng things along and shuffle priorities - routine maintenance not scoped due to delay, reoccurring repairs and replacement of utilities required not scoped due to delays, increased labor and material costs due to delay, crash cost to keep project on schedule, etc...

Master Planning is a key tool in the civic government management tool kit. It supports the Vision, Mission and/or Values statement of the organization and isn't limited to infrastructure development. When an organization's leadership changes, it is common to place to review the Vision, Mission and/or Values statements and the associated Master Plans. If someone campaigns to reduce costs and IDs projects on the list, all the more reason. Sometimes it just takes the knowledge of the cost of killing it vice delaying it, to make the right decision.

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 05:55 am
6
1
Of course the whole concept

Of course the whole concept of public master plans such as this could be suspect. It may be more logical to stay out of the way and let private enterprise take things in the directions business and people desire.

A fantastic, beautiful area of hotels and restaurants has grown up around I-20, Washington Rd exit with a huge Target complex a few miles down the road. All that was done without a penny of tax money and overlaps two counties. Matter of fact, the hotel taxes they collect go to pay for things downtown that don't help their businesses one iota.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 06/10/12 - 06:30 am
4
5
"A fantastic, beautiful area

"A fantastic, beautiful area of hotels and restaurants has grown up around I-20, Washington Rd exit with a huge Target complex a few miles down the road". I don't know that I could call urban sprawl beautiful. How about a "large" area of....?

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 06/10/12 - 07:05 am
5
6
Johnbrown Writes: "A

Johnbrown Writes: "A fantastic, beautiful area of hotels and restaurants has grown up around I-20, Washington Rd exit with a huge Target complex a few miles down the road. All that was done without a penny of tax money and overlaps two counties."

Low cost stucco faced cookie cutter buildings with a projected lifespan of 20-30 years tops and little if any consideration given to greenspace. Hardly fantastic.

The access roads, their maintenance costs and the policing efforts alone belie the "without a single penny of taxpayer money". I confess ignorance as to wether or not tax dispensation was given to developers, but we see this often in this type of development also. Nothing against it, in fact it's a great tool, but let's be sure about the no civic funds arguement.

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 07:10 am
8
2
Techfan, the complex of large

Techfan, the complex of large hotels around the courtyard anchored by the Sheraton would have people oohing and awing if it were downtown.

You guys want to call business construction in the county urban sprawl. But if were downtown everyone would be ecstatic. They get a chopped down Walmart on 15th St and city troglodytes think this is New York.

The roads for the big hotel complex were already in place. They hire off duty officers for security. Not a dime of county money.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 06/10/12 - 07:39 am
4
3
I'm a fan of historic

I'm a fan of historic architecture. Hotels and a slew of chain restaurants don't have me oohing and awning [sic] so matter where there are. The Fox Theatre, now that gets me going.

floridasun
310
Points
floridasun 06/10/12 - 07:52 am
3
3
Washington Road Hotels

To call the unplanned,haphazard development around Washington Road and I-20 beautiful is a joke right?
Washington Road is one of the ugliest roads in the country and is a great example of why better planning is needed.
I had much rather stay in a downtown Augusta hotel on the river and eat in some of the local restaurants downtown.
Downtown Augusta may not be perfect but it sure has a lot more charm than Washington Road and I-20

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 06/10/12 - 09:19 am
4
0
Why is Washington Road the

Why is Washington Road the veneer of commerce that it is? Bevause it is the biggest road leading directly out oif downtown and always carried the most people to work and back. Not planning, but escaping created Washington Road. Planning to get those people to turn around will take a lot more than a 25 year old Master Plan. It will take 250,000 tax slaves and personally I don't have the time.

seenitB4
87116
Points
seenitB4 06/10/12 - 10:36 am
2
1
JBA said...

A fantastic, beautiful area of hotels and restaurants has grown up around I-20, Washington Rd exit with a huge Target complex a few miles down the road. All that was done without a penny of tax money and overlaps two counties. Matter of fact, the hotel taxes they collect go to pay for things downtown that don't help their businesses one iota

I agree JBA & so do many others.....time will tell.....sometimes ole dogs don't want to learn any new tricks.....follow the money folks....:)

seenitB4
87116
Points
seenitB4 06/10/12 - 10:39 am
4
0
I agree with this techfan

Fox Theatre, now that gets me going.

Me too....The people of Atlanta fought to keep this beautiful building alive...thank goodness.

Some buildings can't be replaced.....that is one of them,..

dichotomy
32906
Points
dichotomy 06/10/12 - 11:07 am
5
0
They did.

"The city should explore every way"

They already did. They took all of the COUNTY's tax money and all of the SPLOSTs money and all of the Hotel and Motel taxes and spend them ALL in the CITY. The only progress the SOUTH end sees for it's tax money is Section 8 creep and local businesses closing and running for their lives. I suspect that is part of the Master Plan.

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 12:28 pm
3
0
Just to clarify...I also

Just to clarify...I also appreciate historic structures and architectural themes for the old city area. I've long been a proponent of historic preservation.

Techfan, SeenIt and RA are absolutely right about the charm of such buildings in the city. However, we should also appreciate the fantastically beautiful complex of four large hotels around the courtyard actually on Stevens Creek Rd, off I-20-Wash. Rd. I doubt some have even seen the place. That's the place built without county money and gets no help from the plentiful hotel tax they bring in.

Addressing the urban sprawl of the other places in the same area, that's what happens when you have a new area booming. Every square inch of land ends up with something being built. I remember vacant spots a few years ago now have Starbucks and Baskin Robbins. Thriving areas with new construction certainly can't match the quaint charm of a well run historic city, but magnificient places such as those hotels are built.

My issue is nowhere in those plans that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars did it say those hotels should be built, plus they were not given tax breaks or helped in other ways. They did it with pure capitalistic pizzaz. The tax money goes to well connected individuals around properties downtown, except Bonnie Ruben. She takes nothing.

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 03:53 pm
4
1
To once again say a key point

To once again say a key point many are hitting on... The hotels out in the county have their hotel-motel taxes locked in with the TEE agreement for the next 50 to revitalize Laney Walker. That's not right.

Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 06/10/12 - 01:17 pm
3
1
ASDA/Agenda 21

I'm all for the proper development of the CSRA. But what has disturbed me is the steady drumbeat of "Sustainable Development" the Mayor and his deep pocketed developer buddies are touting. My research has told me that the words "Sustainable Development" are wonk speak for a U.N mandate that is nothing more than extreme enviro-nut policies designed to dictate what private property owners can and cannot do with their own property, called Agenda 21.Granted we have a bit of that in place already but to have it be a part of a U.N mandate tells me either our city leaders are cool with that or they are willing dupes who care more about making money for their developer buddies that they do about private property rights...
Either way it stinks.....

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 06/10/12 - 03:58 pm
2
7
Great, Agenda 21 conspiracy

Great, Agenda 21 conspiracy theories. Black helicopters will be swarming the CSRA soon. Sustainable development can mean many things. Some are very simple. Don't cover every square inch of ground with concrete. That way you don't have a deluge of oil/chemical filled stormwater runoff after a mild 1/4 inch of rainfall. Leave some freakin' trees. A tiny strip with a few crepe myrtles does not a greenspace make. Figure traffic patterns where you don't have to go around your elbow to get....... Hotels, shopping centers etc., put an access road connecting them so if you pull into one, you don't have to get back into the main traffic flow to get next door. You save time and gasoline, and the main trafiic flow doesn't get screwed up so everyone else does as well. Some simple ideas that make things better, while not having to worry about impending doom or an invasion by the forces of evil.

itsanotherday1
43016
Points
itsanotherday1 06/10/12 - 05:23 pm
0
0
INRE The Fox

Every time I go there, I just sit and shake my head in disbelief that they came within an eyelash of tearing that jewel down to put up an office building. Incredible! I would like to shake every hand that had something to do with preserving it.

KSL
129373
Points
KSL 06/10/12 - 05:54 pm
1
0
I personally think the Fox

I personally think the Fox Theatre is a hideous piece of architecture, but that is just me. I have never liked Moorish architecture. I am glad it was saved for its historical significance.

And just for you, techfan, it was the place of my husband's graduation from GT, not the historical significance I was referring to though.

Gage Creed
17203
Points
Gage Creed 06/10/12 - 08:38 pm
0
0
Ahhhh.....An evening's

Ahhhh.....An evening's slumber at The Regency Inn on Broad and a late night meal at Banks Cafe. Who could ask for more?

KSL
129373
Points
KSL 06/10/12 - 11:09 pm
0
0
LOL, we had a very young

LOL, we had a very young unmarried friend who introduced us to late nights at the Banks. I didn't eat or drink there. Just looked after him.

Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 06/11/12 - 06:23 pm
0
0
Techie...How can it be a

Techie...How can it be a conspiracy theory if it's working as planned? More like a conspiracy REALITY eh?....

Back to Top

Top headlines

'Go Downtown' initiative gets mixed reviews

The "Go Downtown" initiative aims to foster a downtown environment that welcomes the college community and creates business for merchants. The event is held every third Thursday of the month ...
Search Augusta jobs