Parsing the veranda plan

Commissioner's intriguing idea has attendant questions

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We’ll never criticize innovation and creativity. Augusta desperately needs more of both.

So we applaud Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams for his out-of-the-box thinking that gave rise last week to a proposed raised pedestrian plaza over sunken parking stalls from Eighth to Ninth streets on Broad.

His “veranda” concept, which he unveiled before the Downtown Development Authority on Thursday, includes greenery, sitting space and more.

Fact is, it could become a natural extension of the very popular Augusta Common, a pastoral community gathering spot connecting Broad Street with Reynolds and, by extension, the riverfront, in the 800 block.

Indeed, the wonderfully popular Arts in the Heart festival has spilled out from the Common onto Broad Street already. It could make terrific use of such a facility as is being proposed.

It’s not part of the 2009 Master Plan that Augusta Tomorrow and others worked long and hard to design, with significant public input. But while that’s regrettable, it’s not a fatal flaw; plans can always change.

As Williams acknowledges, right now it’s just an idea. Its feasibility and popularity have yet to be tested.

But it’s an intriguing concept.

There are, however, other dispositive questions yet to be asked and answered.

The first is a chicken-and-egg one. Borrowing from the film Field of Dreams’ famous phrase: Do we build it and they will come? Or should we wait until there is greater demand, more of a critical mass of pedestrians downtown? As we noted in an editorial Sunday, Augusta’s nearby riverfront is so underused it could be considered blighted.

Another question is more mundane, but just as important: Can the city maintain such a structure when – as a walking tour proved to Augusta commissioners recently – the city is having big problems maintaining the existing Riverwalk?

And, of course, where would the money come from?

These questions need to be answered quickly. The city already has plans for major structural work on Broad Street in the coming years. Now is the time to decide if those plans should be built upon.

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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 06/18/13 - 06:11 am
They should prove they can maintain

They should prove they can maintain what they have in a proper manner before adding anything else.

t3bledsoe 06/18/13 - 10:13 am
Well said ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts

"They should prove they can maintain what they have in a proper manner before adding anything else."

It appears that at least two of us agree that maintenance should be done first, and should ALWAYS factor into the bottom line !!

seenitB4 06/18/13 - 10:52 am
Great ideas but

Just like the other comments on here....maintain what you have already ...& then expand.

countyman 06/18/13 - 11:51 am

The Riverwalk is beautiful the majority of time, and so is the Augusta Common. You need to create multiple visionary developments in order to attract new tax base to fun any maintenance of future or existing structures.

Dichotomy. The city hasn't built anything new on Broad street or the Riverwalk lately. The money going into Laney Walker/Bethlehem is coming from the local tourist, and their not coming here to visit South Augusta.

The city is working on redeveloping the Dover/Lyman area, Peach Orchard, Regency Mall area, etc. Progress is also moving forward on Diamond Lakes, Butler Creek Greenway, etc.

In terms of shopping the majority of shopping in Columbia lies within Evans, and Aiken for Aiken County. South Augusta will more than likely get the next target unless they come to Southwest Augusta.

David Parker
David Parker 06/18/13 - 01:56 pm
Gage Creed
Gage Creed 06/18/13 - 08:51 pm
The tourists are not coming

The tourists are not coming here to visit Laney-Walker/ Bethlehem either.....

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/18/13 - 09:48 pm
Master Plan

I am glad that ACES pointed out that this veranda project was not part of the $500,000 "study" that we paid for to improve the coolness factor of Augusta. I cannot even remember the name of the architechtural firm that drew the pretty watercolor pictures. Was it Shields or Spires or something like that? I do seem to remember they were from Massachusetts.

No, Marion Williams had to go and hire someone else to draw some new watercolor pictures of a different idea so he could pitch it in true huckster fashion. We continue to dig ourselves into a hole, folks.

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