Just over five years ago, local developer Bryan Haltermann was quoted in a Chronicle article about the need for redevelopment downtown.
Even months ago, he was divesting himself of properties in the city core.
This is how quickly things are changing in Augusta: Last week Haltermann was in The Chronicle again, this time announcing a $1.7 million investment and renovation of a three-story building at 901 Broad – which he says will be returned to its 19th century glory for 21st-century purposes: nine lofts upstairs and restautant/retail space on the ground.
The renovation – a private investment, to be sure, but also a gift to the community – comes as Augusta prepares for a continuing invasion of young, hungry, educated and vibrant cyber-industry workers, students and trainees following the Army’s decision to make nearby Fort Gordon its headquarters for the nation’s cybersecurity.
Augusta was urged a few years ago to be more “cool.” Well, the cool front is arriving.
Haltermann’s project joins a growing list of exciting developments downtown – including two new hotels, one of which will be steps away from Haltermann’s project.
The ground is fertile and it is sowing time.
Augusta’s downtown has an eye-popping amount of riverfront available for development.
And, in fact, that’s exactly where the state has decided to build the new $50 million Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center that, in the words of Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, “brings together academia, private industry and government to establish cybersecurity standards across state and local agencies to develop and practice protocols for responding to cyber threats.”
But the riverfront is just one of Augusta’s many underutilized assets.
The warm, welcoming climate; the affordable living; the foliage; the canal and nature and jogging/biking trails; the medical complex; Augusta University’s growing presence downtown; the Southern charm; and the remarkable, enduring history all converge to make Augusta – ironically one of the country’s most storied enclaves – one of the newest hot spots.
In fact, Fortune magazine recently cited Augusta as one of seven cities worldwide vying to become the international cyber capital – along with such big cities as Boston, Washington, D.C., and London.
None of that means that we have to shed our rich history. Haltermann’s renovation of 901 Broad proves that.
So does a recent announcement that the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation bestowed an “Excellence in Rehabilitation” award to owner Ben Harrison and architects Christopher Booker and Associates for their loving, respectful restoration of the Henry Kennedy Building at 1022 Broad St.
Big change is coming to Augusta’s downtown.
The best – of both the future and the past – is yet to come.