Changing the skyline

Could a first-rate performing arts center duplicate Durham's spark?

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Apparently there’s a good bit of difference between talk and dialogue.

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FILE/STAFF
The Georgia Golf & Gardens site on Reynolds Street sits unused as part of Augusta’s underdeveloped riverfront. Could a performing arts center revitalize downtown?

There’s been talk here for years and years about building a state-of-the-art performing arts center, perhaps as a skyline-changing addition to Augusta’s vastly underdeveloped riverfront.

But now the talk seems to have changed into dialogue – the difference being the seriousness of it.

The forward-looking Augusta Tomorrow organization, which in 2009 unveiled a master plan for the core of Augusta/North Augusta, has various implementation teams working on aspects of the plan, including the proposal for a performing arts center.

Area arts organizations and others are being sought out – as the plan can, and must, include preservation of arts venues already here, including the Imperial (already restored) and Miller (to be restored) theaters.

Remarkably, designers and managers of other performing arts centers around the region have actually contacted local officials on their own to discuss doing such a project here.

And in June, one of those designers – Philip Szostak, a North Carolina architect – wrote a column in The Chronicle touting Augusta’s potential.

“Could it be done in Augusta?” he wrote. “You bet it can, if Durham’s experience is any indication.”

Augusta Tomorrow folks have visited Szostak’s work in Durham, N.C., several times and have come away more than impressed. They’ve been wowed.

And for good reason: Little Durham has turned itself around, largely through the savvy design and professional operation of its $46 million performing arts center – which is, incredibly, the busiest in America.

“The Durham Performing Arts Center,” writes the News and Observer, “sold more tickets than any other venue of its size in the country in the first half of the year, according to a survey by Pollstar Magazine.

“DPAC, which can accommodate about 2,700 people, outranked venues such as the Fox Theater in Atlanta and the Coliseum in Las Vegas.”

Along with the famous Bull Durham Triple-A ballpark, which is nearby, the revitalized area brings in a million or so people a year. Monty Osteen, an Augusta Tomorrow board member, says even the heady and famous Research Triangle is looking enviously at what Durham has done.

“They’ve really converted that downtown area into an amazing place,” Osteen says.

Land at the site, notes Szostak, went from $4 a square foot before DPAC’s construction to $80 a square foot after.

“How in the world, in little bitty Durham, how did this work?” asks Osteen, but only rhetorically.

The key, he explains, is top-flight design and management. DPAC is designed to accommodate Broadway shows while minimizing setup and breakdown costs that would eat up profits – events that might skip other less-welcoming theaters. And the management company, Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, keeps things
hopping.

“DPAC’s been a game-changer in Durham, and I think an Augusta performing arts center would be an absolute game changer in Augusta,” Osteen says. “Pretty much the most exciting thing we’ve talked about in many years, I think.”

Worries about existing venues in town melt away from the Durham experience: The Carolina, a historic theater there, has thrived since DPAC opened, and the two entities even coordinate events and marketing.

Brenda Durant, executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, says the arts community here hasn’t heard much about the latest proposals for a performing arts center, but that “we plan to hold an arts leadership meeting in October and hopefully talk about the plan. We’ve (numerous arts people) worked on committees and are very positive about the big plan: Miller, Imperial and PAC.”

“The conversations are beginning to get kind of serious,” Osteen says.

The timing may be perfect, too. Osteen says the Durham experience has shown that forward-thinking companies, particularly high-tech ones, want to be in urban settings today, rather than the pastoral ones developers used to customize for them.

“That’s not where the innovators want to be anymore – that’s not where the young entrepreneurial innovative-type person wants to be,” he says of the suburban-feeling corporate parks. “They want to be in an urban environment, much like what they’ve created in Durham. And much like what we have in Augusta already.

“They created a haven for high-tech startups. And now Durham is one of the magnets.”

A natural place – literally – for an Augusta PAC would be the riverfront, particularly the 17 acres of the former Golf and Gardens now owned by the state university system – though questions over ingress and egress would have to be satisfactorily answered. A partnership with Augusta’s consolidated university seems natural as well.

A PAC would likely be just the flashiest part of a larger complex that included office and commercial and even retail space. Similar space in Durham now commands some of the highest rental rates in North Carolina, Osteen says.

There are a number of ways to get this done, and the dialogue has only begun. Some communities do it with strictly private money (Greenville, S.C.). Some with strictly public (Durham). Some with a mix of each (Columbus).

The bottom line is, any self-respecting community the size of Augusta deserves a state-of-the-art performing arts center.

We owe ourselves more than talk.

We owe ourselves dialogue.

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Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/08/12 - 11:22 pm
6
1
As long as it enhances the

As long as it enhances the Marriott, I'm sure the Chronicle will push for the city to build it.

countyman
20002
Points
countyman 09/09/12 - 12:23 am
1
9
Rapid or moderate growth? The choice is yours...

The GGHF property if developed correctly would instantly turn Augusta into a medium powerhouse... Dr. Azziz must allow the performing arts center, sports complex(Cal Ripken), and the mixed-use development(Jim Jacoby) on the property... I'm positive the majority of people in Richmond County would support a performing arts center.. The only problem if the city tried to create a public/private partnership with GSHU/ASU and local citizens.. The usual people would complain how South Augusta never receives any funds.. South Augusta is very large in terms of land mass, and the Augusta Mini Theater, vocational magnet school, Diamond Lakes, etc are miles away from each other.. Basketball courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, walking trails, running track, tennis courts, volleyball courts, etc should take the place of Regency Mall.. This go along with the millions of dollars creating the lake near the mall.. A regional sports complex would come out of the ground, and water activities can be used at the lake.. The citizens of West Augusta wouldn't mind due to the private construction and the Augusta National plans.. The Laney Walker/Bethlehem neighborhoods have the hotel tax, and the Kroc Center is located in Harrisburg.. After Regency Mall the focus can shift towards Harrisburg(bookstores, residential, renovated Sibley mill, retail, coffee shops, etc on Broad street), and East Augusta(demolishing housing projects, extended Riverwalk to create new housing, recreation, etc).

countyman
20002
Points
countyman 09/09/12 - 12:25 am
3
7
Doing something is better than doing nothing...

It's pretty easy to understand why the baseball park near the performing arts center helped revitalize downtown Durham.. Anytime you create pedestrian friendly, foot traffic, artsy, disposable income, and creative urban nodes success is around the corner.. That's why Olde Town, Laney Walker, Medical District, Summerville/Midtown, East Augusta, and Harrisburg should have their own retail, restaurants, and entertainment away from the CBD.. Imagine the revitalization of downtown Durham if they built an sports complex(more than baseball), retail, dorms, research buildings, housing, office, and restaurants next to a tee center, riverwalk, common, 8th street plaza, and the river... It's amazing how even the citizens of Jacksonville(local publication ran a story on the potential of downtown Augusta), and other numerous sources can see the potential some of the residents in the metro can't..

The city of Augusta has the governor and board of regents ready to spend millions.. The time is now, and we have to move faster than our competition(Greenville, Charleston, Knoxville, Savannah, Durham, Greensboro, Charleston, etc)... Were living in a metro close to 600k, and the CSRA is over 700k residents..

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 09/09/12 - 07:11 am
11
0
if we didn't have property

if we didn't have property squatters downtown demanding outrageous rent for falling down storefronts we wouldn't NEED to change our skyline (using government funny bucks). I just saw a photo on Facebook from a local political Gadfly.. a 1940s postcard of downtown Augusta. Every storefront was full. I daresay they didn't need a state-of-the-art performingballparkmixeddevelopmentalartsjimjacobydoesntbuildstadiumsarenaplex to get the ball rolling. STOP increasing business fees. STOP funneling money into millionaire/fake millionaire pet projects. STOP underfunding the police department. STOP giving the downtown queen money.

Again, I have to look at Augusta Tomorrow's track record of "success" when it comes to their projects. Seems the only people who win are the contractors/ downtown property holders/ bond attorneys/ banks.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 09/09/12 - 08:30 am
8
0
which oddly enough.. make up

which oddly enough.. make up a good bit of the Augusta Tomorrow board.

Cue the black helicopters!

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 08:38 am
7
1
OMG

Here we go again......
So many problems -----& a building will change it all....bring on more LIPSTICK please....

We just gotta force more people downtown....

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 09/09/12 - 08:41 am
1
0
Augusta ain't Durham.....
Unpublished

But it is is neck deep, full of Bull. Augusta lives in a dark cloud for 51 weeks a year. April bring the sun for seven days. Under this cloud criminals rape and steal from the taxpayers to line their greedy pockets. Augusta will undoubted rank in history with Detroit, Newark and Chicago for the title of most "corrupt city". Mired in a political swamp fed by federal mandates from the 70's, racial quotas and a consolidation package that would make Al Capone smile.

As Andy explained to Amos, " I first met Mr. Kingfish when I reached in pocket for some change".

The question is why? Why do the citizens of ARC, who happen to out number the corrupt politicians, year after year visit the polls and continue their relationship with mob boss Ben Dover. Logic would say they love the treatments. It is like some novel of a 30's mill town where the mill owner has his way with all of the women and robs the men blind.

Insanity is defined as doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 09/09/12 - 08:48 am
1
0
The only thing that will bring life
Unpublished

to the "core district" and the riverfront would be a casino. Several casinos. Harrah's would love to build a Euchee Tribal casino. Harrah's would probably not need taxpayer funding. Have Fred draw a package whereby SC and GA agree that the Savannah River constitutes a gambling approved zone.

The deal killer would be that the Augusta Commission would not read the contract and N. Augusta would in fact be the site of the casinos.

Gambling? Illegal? Immoral? ARC taxpayers gamble everyday with their financial livelihood, respect and future. And they lose every time.

CobaltGeorge
157909
Points
CobaltGeorge 09/09/12 - 08:55 am
3
3
B4

If you really want people downtown........Put up a 100 foot Christian cross were the Golf park use to be...1000's will come! (Make sure it is bullet proof)

jrbfromga
433
Points
jrbfromga 09/09/12 - 09:03 am
1
0
Dr. Azziz
Unpublished

I, for one, am tired of hearing about Dr. Azziz as being the path forward, just as I am about B.O. This man knows nothing about us, nothing about the South, nothing about Augusta. How does he come here as something like a messiah to save us? As far as the plans to develop the property, Augustans should be careful and not hasty, as this is a unique and historical piece of land that should not be wasted.

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 09:07 am
6
1
Here goes by request..:)

Their thinking is...

City officials say planting city offices in the ANIC building was intended to bolster the blighted community,

Now think about this.....How many people do YOU know run to a blighted area just because of a spanking new building.....or do they run from a blighted area because of CRIME......
A pretty building won't make them safe.....a good tough Sheriff who will kick some behinds would clean up the blighted areas & business would follow....
One more time...BUILDINGS don't make a neighborhood....geeez...I need to run for office -----I would flip some things upside down forya

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 09:13 am
5
1
I have an idea forya...

To the commish...

Put on your gun & holster....go out to the burbs ......esp South Augusta & FORCE the people to come downtown.....don't promise them anything......just say......ya gonna do it or willie the rat will come knocking on yo door.....I can't wait til you get to Rebels door!!!...heh heh.....have cameras ready please...:)

countyman
20002
Points
countyman 09/09/12 - 09:27 am
1
4
The sheriff can't lock up

The sheriff can't lock up criminals until after the crime is committed... In order to attract new business you have to do more than focus on crime... Additional foot traffic also helps the crime rate in the area... The crime rate is lower in the Laney Walker area thanks to the developments... The ANIC building in the Laney Walker neighborhood is apart of a much larger development...

CryoCyberTronics
392
Points
CryoCyberTronics 09/09/12 - 09:31 am
2
3
Another performing arts center Augusta can do without

You fall to mention The Augusta Mini Theater. That is beside the point anyway. What Augusta really needs is a NCAA Football program and then just maybe Augustans will try the arts thing. Remember there are many events associated with game day than than the players and teams on the field along with all the preparation which goes on.

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 09:56 am
2
1
countyman said...

The sheriff can't lock up criminals until after the crime is committed...

No joke sherlock....how long doyya think they would have to wait B4 the crime happened....
Business will always follow good-safe -growing neighborhoods.....it will happen everytime.....

Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 09:59 am
8
0
Other venues for performing

Other venues for performing arts are plentiful in Augusta. Why another one on THAT property?

Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 10:16 am
6
1
Only in Augusta

Did you see the other article about the Laney Walker buildings rent the city pays in a misguided attempt to rejuvenate the area? It is way out of line and they have waived all kinds of money. Plus ANIC is not even paying the property taxes on the rented buildings. Only in Augusta.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 09/09/12 - 10:20 am
2
0
heh.

hope Scott Hudson doesn't feel scooped. He's been making inferences about ANIC for a hot minute

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 10:24 am
3
1
countyman said....

Additional foot traffic also helps the crime rate in the area...

You mean like the foot traffic on First Friday when the shooting happened...on Broad St...?

story1
802
Points
story1 09/09/12 - 10:29 am
6
0
Watch out Augusta

You're on the verge of getting sucked into another tax to pay for a Performing Arts Center, Miller restoration (because SOA cannot come up with $30M) and Imperial refurbishment etc.
"If you build it" doesn't necessarily mean "they will come".

Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 10:40 am
6
1
Robbing the Suburbs for the Urban Area

Understand the political forces behind such activities that quietly divert wealth from suburban communities to Democratic urban areas. It’s a form of wealth redistribution. Keep in mind there are actually TWO goals with these tactics. They encourage money to be spent in the urban areas but also DISCOURAGE people moving to and spending money in the outlying areas. Sound familiar South Augusta? Sound familiar with the $100 million allotted for the TEE Center and Laney Walker initiative? Look at all the government offices paying rent in downtown Augusta.

These methods encompass government and Democratic controlled school boards that sidetrack suburban taxes to pay for schools and stadiums in the inner city that the affected area couldn’t possibly pay for.

We often hear the urban proponents right here in the Chronicle say their goal is to get people out of the suburbs and living in apartments downtown. Can it be any clearer?

Do you think Democrat controlled Richmond County would say they have a goal to get people out of the city and out into the county? Well, possibly with housing for the poor, but that’s the only way. Send the poor to the suburbs and bring taxpayers to the urban area. Income redistribution.

Little Lamb
45805
Points
Little Lamb 09/09/12 - 11:11 am
2
0
Grooo

Countyman wrote:

Dr. Azziz must allow the performing arts center, sports complex(Cal Ripken), and the mixed-use development(Jim Jacoby) on the property.

Azziz has said more than once that he wants a medical and bioengineering research park on the site. There's not enough room for everything.

dichotomy
32710
Points
dichotomy 09/09/12 - 11:14 am
7
1
Here is your

Here is your discussion......DEMOGRAPHICS.

Different racial makeup.

Different income levels.

Different education levels.

And.....In December 2007, Forbes.com ranked Durham as one of the "Top 20 Places to Educate Your Child". You will NEVER see Augusta, GA in that rating.

Not in the farthest reaches of your imagination can you extrapolate what happened in Durham to what would happen here. Not ONE taxpayer dollar for an arts center. If the artsy types want an arts center I suggest a fundraiser.

I would prefer the "City of Augusta" perfect the "art" of fixing potholes, providing basic services, and collecting property taxes from ANIC before they even THINK about becoming involved in another taxpayer pandering to a special interest group or special status group. If the "City of Augusta" wants another redevelopment project will somebody please get the mayor, the commissioners, the administrator, and all of these civic minded groupls trying to get their hands on more taxpayer money to pay for their "hobby" and escort them to SOUTH RICHMOND COUNTY. I don't think any of them have ever been south of the Bobby Jones loop. You know, the no man's land bordered between Ft. Gordon to the west, the Savannah River to the east, and Burke and Jefferson counties to the south. NOT TO BE CONFUSED with countyman's "southwest" Augusta.

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 11:15 am
2
1
You are hitting the nail on the head River..with this..

We often hear the urban proponents right here in the Chronicle say their goal is to get people out of the suburbs and living in apartments downtown. Can it be any clearer?

EXACTLY......the only problem is the people aren't running downtown like they want...they are running to other counties even to other states....I bet they haven't heard the ole saying..."You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink."

Waterboard anyone!!

Goya
52
Points
Goya 09/09/12 - 11:20 am
8
0
Augusta is not Durham

I've lived in Raleigh before, and only being 1/2 hour away, I am very familiar with Durham. Augusta is no Durham. Not even by a stretch.
A quick fact check shows that Durham has 40,000 more people than Augusta. Half hour away is Raleigh, which sports another 400,000 people. Durham's median income is also about 15K more than Augusta's. Durham's public schools are also in the top 1% of the nation. Their crime is about a third of Augusta's, and their poverty rate is 6% less. Durham, with the help of Raleigh can support a large performing arts venue. Augusta cannot.
Get your priorities straight people! We have ample entertainment venues and do not have the population to support a venue of that type! If you want to spend money to improve this area, fix the education system and clean up the downtown area.

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 11:34 am
2
1
Why Columbia county should care...

DeKalb county was a lot like Columbia county...say 20+ years ago.....snug as a bug thinking...not here in my neighborhood---I'm just fine sitting here by the river (heh heh)....well think again......we have our good schools-nice stores-good decent roads & etc.....
Well now....some looking from across the county line saw those GOODIES & thought ...dang...why can't I have goodies too just like that county....we will move to THAT county & enjoy the good things in life because right here is crap warmed over (insert Richmond/or Fulton here).....sooo the apartments sprang ---the low housing came---builders will please the buyers.....& lo & behold some of that dad burned crime came with it.....so you see where I'm going with this doncha......
It would benefit ALL to build up south Augusta....to help curb the crime problem & promote good quality housing & good jobs.....or read above again......I see it here .....we have so many new apartments we might toppled over heh...some are moving now because of the growth ..

Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 11:53 am
1
1
"SouthWEST Augusta" Heh, heh,

"SouthWEST Augusta" Heh, heh, heh.

grouse
1635
Points
grouse 09/09/12 - 12:07 pm
2
0
Bringing in touring companies
Unpublished

Bringing in touring companies that perform Broadway shows, while good in one respect, will kill local theatre. Aiken's Community Theatre bolsters local theatre by providing a main stage for the larger shows and a "black box" for the more intimate shows. Rental for the the proposed theatre above will be out of reach financially for local theatre companies...

Riverman1
83469
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 12:16 pm
1
1
SeenIt, Columbia County

SeenIt, Columbia County already has Section 8 er's too. We created a little housing project for them, Magnolia Trace. We also put them in the back of an open flat bed truck and drive them around West Lake and other wealthy communities in the county now and then so people will understand we have poor people among us.

Lou Stewall
321
Points
Lou Stewall 09/09/12 - 02:33 pm
5
0
Poorly written propaganda!

Where is the bottom line on this story? What are costs and revenues and how was it paid for? I'll bet Durham is losing their ash on this! Please Augusta, save the riverfront for light commercial, not taxpayer-funded revenue-burning public palaces we DO NOT NEED!

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