NORTH AUGUSTA -- Commuters passing through North Augusta's downtown drive through what some consider a nondescript, nothing special business district offering little reason to slow down.
Especially during peak morning and afternoon drive time, when traffic is heavy and steady but few cars even slow to see what downtown has to offer.
All that will change with the implementation of a concept plan drawn up by Cranston, Robertson, and Whitehurst, an Augusta engineering and planning firm.
The three phases of the plan have been designed to give those same commuters and other drivers in the area "a sense of arrival" when they cross over the bridge onto Georgia Avenue, North Augusta's main thoroughfare, said Tom Robertson.
"The goals of the concept design are to support economic development and downtown businesses, and to make the area pedestrian friendly and attract people to it," Mr. Robertson said.
The concept design builds on past city plans dating back as far as the initial design approved by North Augusta founder James U. Jackson in 1896, which was never quite completed. It also borrows from a more recent plan for the city's riverfront and downtown riverfront redevelopment project already under way on portions of the riverfront.
"Mr. Robertson has done an excellent job in pulling together ideas from a number of sources," Councilwoman Carolyn Baggott said. "He has worked with the city from almost the beginning on the master plan for riverfront redevelopment. He has also taken ideas of the Citizens Advisory Panel and converted them into a workable design."
Traffic control measures include a traffic circle with a center fountain just above Clifton Avenue and a landscaped median beginning at the bridge and continuing up Georgia Avenue to Calhoun Park, where the present single fountain is to be tripled.
"Georgia Avenue will still be a traffic mover," Mr. Robertson said.
Like previous plans, the streetscape design proposes that the city initiate a tree planting program and replace present street lighting with lantern light fixtures. The plans also calls for the removal or relocation of overhead wiring and a greater use of alleys as utility corridors.
The first step is to contact the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and utility companies about changes to the overall redevelopment district that also includes West, Spring Grove, Pine Grove, and Buena Vista avenues, City Administrator Charles Martin said.
Phase I of the concept design, with a price tag of $1,249,612 begins at Buena Vista and continues up Georgia Avenue to Jackson Avenue. Total cost of all four phases is $4,104,204.
"Although the plan recommends that the job be done in at least four phases, we've got to see what will happen in each one before we begin," Mr. Martin said.
"Then council can begin the process of prioritizing," he said.
That process is expected to begin this spring at North Augusta Forward, the city council's annual retreat.