Originally created 11/18/99

Consultant: City unity possible



The man credited with rejuvenating downtown Greenville, S.C., and downtown Winston-Salem, N.C., says, if given the chance, he could unify Augusta's fragmented urban area.

Gene Krcelic, chief executive officer of OneTen LLC, a special events and promotions coordinating company, spoke Wednesday to members of Main Street Augusta about ways a city can attract businesses and customers to its downtown area.

And some members of the city-funded group said they would support hiring a consultant such as Mr. Krcelic to head up a series of festivals and entertainment events aimed at revitalizing the area.

There is no time line for when such a decision might be made, however.

"When you use local volunteers for big projects (such as downtown) things get in the way," said Julian Osbon, a Main Street Augusta board member. "Hire a consultant and you can really hold their feet to the fire."

Main Street Augusta, part of a national organization designed to promote and foster downtown commerce, has been searching for ways to tie together events held on the riverwalk to those on Broad Street.

Mr. Krcelic, who is in the third year of a three-year project with the city of Winston-Salem, says Augusta's problem of polarization is not a unique one. His solution with other cities has been to create a routine for the community by offering several series of entertainment events in different downtown venues.

"Just because you have brick and mortar doesn't mean the masses are going to come and enjoy it," Mr. Krcelic said. "They have to be in a routine of coming down there; ... people are coming downtown because they expect it."

Funding special events that include live music and entertainment often requires persuading corporate sponsors to invest dollars that are earmarked for marketing and advertising, as opposed to the smaller pot that makes up community contributions, he said.

"If you bring people downtown, the people with the money will be willing to spend more," Mr. Krcelic said.

OneTen produced the Fourth Street Jazz project in downtown Winston-Salem, a weekly event that regularly draws about 1,000 people.

To hire OneTen for a week's worth of consulting services would cost about $5,000, Mr. Krcelic told the group. Longer term arrangements generally are paid through commissions on corporate sponsorships.

Bryan Haltermann, a downtown property owner and developer, said he is familiar with Mr. Krcelic's work in Greenville and is impressed.

That Augusta already has established a routine with the monthly First Friday celebration on Broad Street's Artists Row bodes well for the future of such a project, Mr. Haltermann said.

"Look at what the artists on Artists Row have done," he said. "They all do good business on that night."

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.