Quality addition

Project Jackson would be a huge plus for North Augusta

This page was foursquare opposed to the former proposal for a new baseball stadium in downtown Augusta. It never felt right, the environs were problematic, the financing was never quite explained and we were never convinced a stadium was the highest and best use of the city’s prime riverfront land.

But the current proposal across the river in North Augusta, S.C., has a completely different feel to it.

“Project Jackson” appears to not only complement, but complete, the remarkable Charleston-style Hammond’s Ferry residential/commercial development just off the shoreline. The proposed addition of a stadium and hotel, nearby retail shops, restaurants, office space and residential units not only appears to fit the area nicely, but it has the potential to transform North Augusta into a destination. A smart, upscale, safe and family-friendly one, at that.

We must admit, we were highly skeptical going in. We’ve kept our powder dry on the issue, but we’ve worried all along. North Augusta has done so much right on its share of shoreline. We’d hate to see them spoil the mood.

After studying the project at length, we are now convinced otherwise. We have, instead, come away excited.

Apparently we’re not alone: Those involved in the $144 million development report that, far from being scared off, there are more people interested in living at Hammond’s Ferry since the stadium complex bombshell announcement was made last December.

We’re convinced this will be a quality addition. Design of ballparks, for instance, has come light years since Augusta’s Lake Olmstead was built. And while we think Olmstead would do, with a little work, there are enhancements and accoutrements in new stadiums that are irresistible to teams and their supporters, including more comfort, suites, food upgrades and more.

Just as importantly, they’re designed to look much more upscale, a la Camden Yards in Baltimore.

The stadium also will be host to more than baseball – including soccer and other athletic events and concerts.

We’re also convinced that Hammond’s Ferry’s original promise of a green and park-like setting will be honored, even as the development offers the best attributes of city living.

As for other concerns: Of the $144 million total, $103 million is to be private investment, with $41 million or so coming from tax increment financing; the Augusta GreenJackets, backed by the entirety of professional baseball, are obligating themselves to at least a 20-year lease; and officials say decibel levels outside a similar stadium in Greenville, S.C., are supremely livable.

In truth, soccer fields at nearby Riverview Park already produce happy sounds of an active life anyway.

There are always reasons to oppose every new development, and we respect those who oppose Project Jackson. We were leaning your way – until all was considered.

With the Aiken County Council’s approval, the project can proceed in quick fashion: The deal requires construction be accomplished within a two-year period.

After initially wondering if it was a good idea, we’re now wondering how it can wait.

TOPIC PAGE: Stadium Project

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