Augusta can take advantage of exciting development opportunities

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The work to build an effective development agenda for all of Augusta, which will set direction for the next two decades, is in its seventh month. We have six months to go. City officials and our citizens' Advisory Task Force have been actively engaged reviewing issues and opportunities and contributing ideas.

The ongoing work of crafting this agenda is progressing according to plan. Recently we presented our findings report, an essential first product, to the mayor and the Augusta commissioners in attendance. An independent panel of preeminent planning professionals commented on the work to date. The commissioners and others there voiced general agreement, as well as thoughtful concerns, for the direction that the plan is proposing.

When we began this effort, we met individually with each of the commissioners and the mayor. We all agreed that the only way that this plan could be successful is to speak to one another freely and openly, thus allowing a productive, give-and-take discourse. As seen in the last meeting, we remain frank and honest with one another, We listen to each other and we are definitely moving in the right direction.

Many of your best and brightest citizens have contributed to this effort, both in private meetings and in public session. A series of public workshops have established a clear set of goals and objectives for the agenda. Basic findings, translated into actions, include:

- Build your economy on your inherent strengths, particularly as related to health sciences, green technology, tourism and urban revitalization.

- Augusta is really big (more than 300 square miles). It has three diverse aspects: its rural farmland in the south; its post-World War II midlands; and the traditional core city. Each has its own attributes, and each should have its own development approach and standards.

- Concentrate future development at transportation crossroads and adjacent to key resources and venues to maximize efficiency and the chance for long-term stability, Examples range from hamlets in the south, to village centers in the midlands, especially at the intersection of Windsor Springs and Tobacco roads, to a new regional center at Rocky Creek and Deans Bridge roads.

- Redevelop and revitalize existing built-up neighborhoods and subdivisions before allowing new development on outlying land not previously developed. Stop sprawl.

- Build on ongoing initiatives, such as Augusta Tech and Augusta State University expansion efforts; Fort Gordon's growth; the Kroc Center; and the recently completed Urban Area Plan.

- Focus along the network of major transportation corridors serving Augusta. Particular attention should be given to creating attractive gateways; repositioning Gordon Highway as a jobs corridor rather than a retail corridor, and converting key arrival corridors into scenic parkways.

- Establish a strong urban growth area -- we call it a "city link" -- that connects the downtown medical complex with a major new initiative to realize a new economic, jobs-oriented destination along Rocky Creek and Gordon Highway.

- Build a continuous, multimodal transportation corridor (cars, bikes, paths, transit) through this city link, lined primarily by dense residential development.

- Reposition older highway-oriented shopping centers into community-based centers serving the surrounding neighborhoods,

- Capitalize on Augusta's network of creeks, other waterways, woodlands and farmland to create restorative areas for people and the overall environment.

- Work to make zoning and regulatory changes necessary to realize this agenda; enforce them; put someone in charge of implementation; and, finally, give that person or entity the power and the resources to see it through.

As the mayor and others remind us, compared to most other cities, Augusta is doing just fine. However, we all know that the city -- given its location, its natural and historic resources, its institutions and its people -- can do much better. Many in Augusta are working hard on that.

Still, seven months into this effort is a long enough time that we are all growing a little impatient. Indeed, some have been trying to address critical issues such as the Regency Mall reuse for nearly two decades, with little success to date. Thus, the urge to vent is upon us. It is the time to do so, and it is natural.

Now, we just need to keep the faith and move forward together. There is no elusive "silver bullet" out there. Remember, however: While this is a 20-year agenda, there is opportunity that we can capitalize on today, and there are long-term initiatives that must be started now. Working together, we will do it.

(The writer is President of shieldsDESIGN LLC of Boston, the firm selected by the Augusta Commission to lead the Augusta development agenda effort.)

Comments (13) Add comment
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Taylor B
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Taylor B 02/19/10 - 11:11 pm
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Mr. Shields, you ever thought

Mr. Shields, you ever thought about selling cars? You would make a killing! There is a sucker born every minute, kudos for finding the ones that run Augusta! You hiring?

Petey Aitchess
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Petey Aitchess 02/20/10 - 04:14 am
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I wonder how much this "pep

I wonder how much this "pep talk" letter cost on the expense billing sheet?

bettyboop
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bettyboop 02/20/10 - 09:07 am
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LOL...this "plan" could be

LOL...this "plan" could be used for any city....whats new?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/10 - 09:47 am
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Okay, let's think about this

Okay, let's think about this a bit. The consultant says:

- - Establish a strong "urban growth area" that connects the downtown medical complex with a "major new initiative" to realize a new economic, jobs-oriented destination along Rocky Creek and Gordon Highway. Build a continuous, multi-modal transportation corridor (cars, bikes, feet, public transit) through this urban growth area, lined primarily by dense residential development.- -

Yeah, right. The city government could definitely re-pave Highway 1 from Gordon Hwy. into town, and they could paint stripes on the sides of Highway 1 (aka Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard) and call them bike lanes.

But the city government must not get into the business of financing this nebulous "major new initiative." It must be the market that drives business development. The only thing the city should do is provide a low, fair tax scheme for businesses and provide water and sewer services along with the roads.

Likewise for the "dense residential development." The "urban growth area" between the medical complex and Regency Mall along Hwy. 1 (MLK) seems to me to be already "dense residential," but if they want even more population density, then there might be some developers who would be glad to raze some old, dilapidated neighborhoods and build high-rise apartments. But if there are such developers out there, step forward. I'm sure the city planning department would grant you permission to buy the old neighborhoods from the absentee slumlords, then raze the property, then build your high-rises. Just don't expect the taxpayers to finance it.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/20/10 - 09:51 am
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LL, excellent post. It's like

LL, excellent post. It's like the county government is trying to find ways to negate what private enterprise is telling us. There is a reason millions of private money is being spent around Wash. Rd. and I-20.

About all the consultant says is find ways to get through the bad areas that make it more bearable. Heh, heh, heh.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/10 - 09:54 am
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Again, the consultant says: -

Again, the consultant says:

- - Concentrate future development at transportation crossroads and adjacent to key resources and venues to maximize efficiency and the chance for long-term stability, especially at the intersection of Windsor Springs and Tobacco roads.- -

Did he even bother to drive out there? The intersection of Windsor Springs Road and Tobacco Road is already fully developed. It has two large strip malls with grocery stores. It has restaurants, banks, retail stores, drug stores, churches, single family homes, mobile home parks, and apartments. It even has the trendy thing - - - "greenspace."

Aha, it just hit me. This consultant sees that greenspace and realizes that every last square foot of land in the Windsor Springs / Tobacco roads area is not yet covered in asphalt. He wants to harvest the trees and lay asphalt and build a warehouse and call it "development."

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/20/10 - 10:09 am
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LL, the consultant probably

LL, the consultant probably means the current Windsor Springs-Tobacco Rd. development is substandard. Of course it looks better than 90% of Broad St., but he couldn't criticize THAT area. It goes against what the powers-that-be want to hear.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/10 - 10:33 am
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I love this euphemism from

I love this euphemism from the consultant:

- - Reposition older highway-oriented shopping centers into community-based centers serving the surrounding neighborhoods. - -

Could we have some plain speaking here? What in the world does "reposition" mean? Does he want to jack a shopping center up, load it onto giant flatbeds, and rotate it to face Mecca?

Here the consultant has crossed the line. He is suggesting to the city fathers that the city government take taxpayer money and buy "highway-oriented shopping centers" (he could not bring himself to write "Regency Mall") and call them "community centers." I'm sorry, Mr. Shields, but our city should not do that.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/10 - 10:40 am
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I propose a common New Year's

I propose a common New Year's resolution for every citizen of Augusta for 2011:

I resolve not to gripe and moan and complain about Regency Mall in 2011. It belongs to someone else and it's none of my business.

Taylor B
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Taylor B 02/20/10 - 10:58 am
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LL, you're on fire this

LL, you're on fire this morning! I've been screaming that the Regency is private property for two years now. People are so used to the govt being able to take, they think that's a viable plan. I don't blame the masses, I just try to educate... Good post!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/10 - 11:22 am
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Does anyone remember from

Does anyone remember from English class the term "royal we"? It's the use of the word "we" when what is intended is "you." Here's an example. The King said to the soldiers, "Men, we must take that plain from the enemy soldiers!"

Listen to what John Shields says to Augusta: Citizens, we must

* Build
* Concentrate
* Redevelop and revitalize
* Build
* Focus
* Establish
* Build
* Reposition
* Capitalize
* Work

Yeah, John. That's easy for you to say as you take our $500,000 back to Boston.

Rah, Rah, Ree
Kick him in the knee
Rah, Rah, Rass
Kick him in the other knee

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/20/10 - 10:17 pm
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Okay, you can see from the

Okay, you can see from the time stamp that no one other than moi is interested in Mr. Shields' guest column. It will be deader than a doormouse by tomorrow afternoon if no one else posts. Here's another lame idea from John Shields, president of shieldsDESIGN LLC of Boston:

- - Basic findings from a series of workshops include building your economy on your inherent strengths, including green technology. - -

Yeah, that's great, John. What kind of green technology strengths do we have in the CSRA? We have a coal-fired power plant in Beech Island. We have a caprolactam plant that burns oil and natural gas. We have paper mills that burn wood chips and natural gas. We have a beef rendering plant that burns oil and natural gas. We have several other chemical plants that burn oil and natural gas. We have a corrugated cardboard plant that burns natural gas. We have a chlor-alkali plant that produces much needed chlorine from electricity produced largely from coal. We have absolutely no green technology infrastructure here in Augusta.

We have no photovoltaic cell manufacturing here that could turn sunlight into electricity. Why, you ask? Well, manufacturing photovoltaic cells is an energy-intensive industry that produces a lot of pollution that would have to be discharged into the Savannah River.

We have no wind-turbine generator manufacturing here that could turn wind into electricity. Why, you ask? Well, manufacturing wind turbines requires people who will work their tails off in hot, unpleasant environments and work that is tedious and sometimes backbreaking. It's work that "Americans won't do," according to former president George W. Bush.

We have no grain ethanol producing plants here in the CSRA. Why, you ask? Because, you cannot grow enough grain here to make a drop in the bucket of an ethanol economy. An ethanol economy is an energy rat hole. It takes MORE than one fossil fuel BTU to produce one ethanol BTU. It's a descending spiral into failure and oblivion.

Green technology is your siren song to mesmerize our county commissioners. Some of them are dumb enough to fall for it, but one or two are wise enough to call your bluff.

You have sat here long enough, Mr. Shields. In the name of God, go!

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/21/10 - 09:39 pm
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I am still talking to myself.

I am still talking to myself. But at least I'm not arguing with myself.

Here's another zinger of hopelessness from John Shields, president of shieldsDESIGN LLC of Boston:

- - - Redevelop and revitalize existing built-up neighborhoods and subdivisions before allowing new development on outlying land not previously developed. Stop sprawl.- - -

Yeah, that sounds politically correct, except to property owners and politicians. Once land has been subdivided and developed, you have hundreds of property owners of tiny parcels with who knows what built on each one. To revitalize these parcels requires some kind of master plan the likes of which John Shields will not provide for his $500,000 fee. He thinks he has only to provide the "agenda" for that measly amount of money. But if the city will pay him a couple of million simoleons, then he might come back with a plan to actually revitalize a slum neighborhood.

Shields' concept is a pipe dream, and commissioners should stop the bloodletting and tell Shields to go back to Boston. There should be no more checks cut to his company.

How do you think Brush & Co., Meybohm, Nordahl, ReMax, Blanchard & Calhoun and other real estate companies would like a new ordinance in town that says there can be no more new subdivisions or apartments or condominium projects until all the existing subdivisions, apartments, and condos are "revitalized?" Lunacy.

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