Augusta appears to be doing something right when it comes to downtown revitalization.
For one thing, you can see many pieces of evidence with your own eyes.
For another thing, people apparently are visiting from other cities to take notes!
The Heart and Soul Downtown Workshop – sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation – rolled into town Thursday. More than 20 public- and private-sector officials from across the state dropped by to spend the day learning about downtown development in general and what Augusta is doing in particular.
The two groups had their pick of a lot of cities to visit, but settled this year on just two. In May the tour visited Madison, perhaps best known for its picturesque antebellum homes.
Then they came here – and for good reason. Augusta is an ideal model for a resurging downtown.
The group visited the recently renovated Miller Theatre; the Augusta Regional Collaboration meeting space and business incubator at 600 Broad St., the former site of the Chamber of Commerce; and the Escape Room Program at the Augusta Museum of History – the nation’s first museum-based “escape room” for fun team-building activities.
Visitors got to learn about local streetscape projects funded by the one-cent Transportation Investment Act sales tax.
They got to see how the Film Augusta initiative is grooming our town to be as attractive as possible for movie and television production.
The GMA and the GCF probably had another reason for visiting – to see where their money is going. The two groups help administrate a Revolving Loan Fund that lends money to local projects destined to have a positive economic impact.
There are 13 renovation projects in Augusta funded in part by that loan program, totaling a commitment of more than $2 million. At least half of those projects are for buildings on Broad Street.
To see the progress locally as it unfolds, it’s sometimes so slow and steady that it doesn’t seem as dramatic.
That’s why we envy the people who visited Augusta on Thursday – to see with fresh eyes how the city is changing and growing.