The city of Augusta is about to make another ill-considered and expensive mistake regarding Riverwalk, triggered by the recent attack that injured two people.
The reason for the attack is that Riverwalk has few people using what amounts to an urban park. The area is mostly deserted, particularly at night, because there is no real life down by the river – no restaurants, shops or other activities – and as a result it is attractive to criminals who can prey upon the few people foolish enough to walk down there at night.
A similar situation was solved in New York City when its nine-acre Bryant Park in midtown fell into disrepair and became a haven for the homeless, drug dealers, etc. A private-public corporation was formed that oversaw the restoration and improvement of the park. While owned by the city, it was run by the corporation.
Whereas previously there were only a few homeless pushing shopping carts in the nine acres, now the park was filled with thousands of people enjoying wifi and shopping at many shops, including Starbucks, and crime has now almost disappeared because of the large numbers of people filling the park. The city now is enjoying tax receipts from the many private businesses that have moved there.
As I have noted in previous letters and guest columns, the unnecessary levee that cuts us off from our beautiful river – supposedly to protect us from a flood that never will happen – is preventing economic development of our most important property in the entire CSRA: the enormous amount of land between Reynolds Street and the river from Fifth to 13th streets – land which, if developed, would provide a huge tax base, curtail crime, encourage tourism and be a benefit to the Augusta citizens. U.S. Geological Survey data clearly show the river never is going to flood higher than the base of the existing levee, if even that high.
Please encourage the mayor and Augusta Commission to look into this idea. Let’s turn this expensive mistake into a win-win for all concerned.