The majority of calls, emails and casual conversations, while not unanimous, have been quite positive. Indeed, the response from the younger professional generation has been and continues to be underscored with hopeful, but guarded, excitement.
I SAY “GUARDED” because those who see the potential of the North Augusta riverfront center and the possibility of its capacity to actually touch and embrace the Savannah riverfront are hopeful for a destination that truly embraces the ideals of the great American city; however, the hopefulness is tempered by the same points of contention that are voiced by those who categorically oppose what is now called “Project Jackson,” namely security, traffic/parking and noise.
But whether face-to-face with someone expressing optimism or dissent, I feel compelled to remind that person or people of the visionary purpose of Hammond’s Ferry and its function as a vehicle through which the city of North Augusta can, and hopefully will, see through the plans of its founders to physically connect this great city to the Savannah River.
AS EXCLUSIVE neighborhoods began to spring up along the North Augusta Riverfront in the late 1980s and 1990s, approximately one mile of riverfront, which happened to represent the exact single mile of riverfront laid out by James U. Jackson and his city planners in 1892, remained untouched by developers. And through the vision of city leaders, the property was acquired for the purpose of a public/private partnership to complete this original master plan and ultimately to link downtown North Augusta to the river.
The development and architectural code, which is responsible for the extraordinary design and planning standards reflected in the currently developed phases of Hammond’s Ferry, were put into place to ensure that this vision would be completed in such a way that every single feature of the newer community would enhance the greater “public realm” of North Augusta.
IT IS CLEAR that Hammond’s Ferry has enhanced the city’s public realm, with the addition of the riverfront/Greeneway park, Brick Pond Park, wonderful landscaped sidewalks and beautiful streetscapes. And while the beauty and allure of the community’s scale and individual homes certainly are matters of pride for property and business owners here, the purpose of this detail is to frame the public realm in the most responsible way possible, thus adding value both to the riverfront community and to the city as a whole.
Commenting on the potential of Project Jackson, Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joe Riley wrote to me: “I want you to know I have seldom seen a more exciting and worthwhile mixed use plan than what has been recently unveiled for Hammond’s Ferry. It is world-class.”
IT IS WORLD-CLASS in its intent to deliver the most exceptional public realm possible where it was originally intended. This can be achieved not just by a handful of restaurants and pubs on the river, but with family-oriented cultural facilities, sports venues and public gathering places – the components of any great town center. Why attract someone for an evening meal or a cocktail when one can make an entire family feel welcome for an entire day on the North Augusta Riverfront?
Provided that the city and development partners continue to follow best management practices and exercise responsible due diligence relating to all public safety, traffic and other concerns, the proposed programming of the stadium and related entertainment facility will deliver a true family destination on the river. This plan will allow the city to truly realize the critical civic components that will enhance the quality of Hammond’s Ferry while simultaneously drawing guests and visitors to existing downtown businesses.
Some have told me that “the stadium” was not mentioned in the early days. They are correct, but the opportunity did not exist at that time. Neither Brick Pond Park, Blue Clay Farm nor even Edge Salon, Taste or Manuel’s Cafe were envisioned in the
beginning. But they came, and the public realm is better for it. It offers a sample of the quality to come.
INDEED, I HAVE a homesite adjacent to mine that is now vacant. I do not know who will live there or what the house will look like, but I know the standards are in place to make it right. The standards also are in place for Project Jackson to be carefully executed, and become the catalyst for North Augusta to truly interact with its great river.
(The writer has represented North Augusta Riverfront Co. LLC since its inception and is a resident of Hammond’s Ferry.)