How development developed

As the local architectural associate with I.M. Pei for the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum and the Chamber of Commerce building, I wish to respond to an April 15 article (“A genius some of the time”) by Bill Kirby, columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.

 

The article implies that I.M. Pei’s streetscape project was, in large measure, responsible for many of the problems with downtown Augusta for the past 40 years. To quote Mr. Kirby, “People have been grumbling about what he did to downtown for almost 40 years now and trying to change it for almost as long.”


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It is my opinion, and that of many other professionals, that the main reason for the failure in the revitalization of downtown was not the streetscape project; rather, it was the site selection for the Coliseum and Civic Center made by the Coliseum Authority.

Pei was originally commissioned to make a site recommendation to the authority. However, before a recommendation could be made, politics took over. Instead of listing in order his preference of six proposed sites — three in the county and three downtown — Pei was directed to provide the Coliseum Authority a site selection study listing the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed sites.

Working directly with Pei and his design team, I knew they loved the riverfront, and there was no doubt in my mind that one of the two riverfront sites proposed would have been recommended to the authority.

Had this been done, it would have been difficult for the authority to vote against his recommendation. More importantly, Pei’s recommendation would have further stimulated growth downtown, and especially along the riverfront.

In 1968, Muldower &Patterson, Architects &Urban Developers did a Comprehensive Plan for the Expansion and Revitalization of Downtown Augusta. This plan was approved in principle and accepted by the Commercial Area Study Committee in 1968. That study highlighted the construction of a mall extending from the Municipal Building on Greene Street to a riverfront Coliseum and Civic Center next to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Every study made of Augusta that I am aware of has shown that the future of Augusta lies in the development of our riverfront for cultural, recreational and residential uses.

Perhaps in the future, those who have been “grumbling” for the past 40 years will direct their energy in a more positive manner, by insisting that all future plans for the expansion and revitalization of Augusta be left in the hands of professionals, and not politicians.

Frank L. Holroyd Jr.

Augusta

B. M. Michales 13 days ago
A big problem with downtown is crime and the undesirables roaming the streets. First Friday is a perfect example, it used to be good, not anymore.
Dee STAFFORD 13 days ago
No matter how you cut it, the parking pits in downtown are a terrible idea and impractical.  The other things mention in the letter perhaps would have been greater benefit, but the parking on Broad Street would have still hampered downtown businesses.
Johnny Rio 13 days ago
Thanks for this enlightening letter. Broad St. is broad...wide and Pei's team came up with a great plan to beautify the concrete desert. What's the alternative? Pavement with lines drawn for parking? An overhead sitting deck like Marion Williams proposes?

As far as the location of the Coliseum, well connected people usually determine such sites. Rarely do public buildings end up where they would do the most good. If you are connected enough you can have the county connect a public building to your private one and give you a kitchen to boot.
Roland SASSER 13 days ago
Crime and the lack of parking in general are the reasons I avoid downtown. I agree, the parking pits have got to be one of the worst uses of space I have ever seen.
Sonny Pittman 13 days ago
The idea of constructing a mall extending from the Municipal Building to a RIVERFRONT Coliseum and Civic Center is something the Coliseum Authority and the Augusta Commission should seriously consider.   

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