Originally created 01/10/01

City gets master plan update



The city's newest downtown master plan calls for the creation of a second riverfront residential complex, a railroad overpass at 15th Street, and the establishment of judicial and biotechnology districts.

The projects were just a few of those included in an updated master plan presented Tuesday by Augusta Tomorrow, the public-private downtown revitalization group whose original 1982 plan spawned the city's riverfront improvements.

Other elements of the long-range plan, such as the Augusta Common, a central park and the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, are in development stages. Officials said about $200 million in developments resulted from the original plan, but were unable to provide specific costs for future projects.

"I see 2001 as being an important crossroads for Augusta," Augusta Tomorrow President Julian Osbon said. "This year will determine the type of community we will be during the next 15 years."

Among the plan's most ambitious new projects is creation of a residential-retail complex along the riverfront between Fifth and Sixth streets, on vacant land owned by the city's pension fund.

The concept, a low-rise version of the nearby Port Royal condominium complex, would help increase the number of people living downtown and provide more services for Riverwalk Augusta visitors.

"Riverwalk has been your star," said Don Hilderbrandt, design director for LDR International, the Maryland-based company contracted to develop the master plan. "It has done the most to bring people back into the city."

City officials are discussing selling the property to private developers.

Other plan highlights include:

A railroad overpass near the intersection of Greene and 15th streets. An off-ramp would be built on River Watch Parkway that would stretch over Broad Street and the railroad track that runs parallel to Greene Street, which would give commuters uninterrupted access to the medical district.

An officially designated biotechnology district, which would be composed of land between the central business and medical districts. The two sections would be linked by the proposed extension of St. Sebastian Way across the Augusta Canal.

Creation of a judicial center, which would occupy several blocks surrounding the U.S. District Courthouse. New facilities could be built on vacant property, such as the lot at Ninth and Telfair streets. Officials have also discussed converting the existing central library into the U.S. Bankruptcy Court if a new library facility is developed south of the Augusta Common project as planned.

Officials said Tuesday the first phase of the Augusta Common project will likely be the next master plan element to come to fruition. Phase 1 calls for the demolition of a 200-foot section of buildings along the 800 block of Broad Street to create greenspace between Eighth and Ninth streets that would serve as a central location for community events.

When all three phases are complete, the urban park will stretch from the future Morris Museum of Art building along the riverfront to the municipal parking deck near the corner of Ninth and Telfair streets.

Project backers have secured only a portion of the land and the $2 million needed to complete Phase 1, but Mayor Bob Young said he is confident demolition will begin by the end of the month.

"This should be our number one priority," he said.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or bized@augustachronicle.com.

Riverfront development:

Private investors would be called on to build a mixed-use development along a vacant section of city-owned riverfront property between Fifth and Sixth streets.

Railroad overpass:

Transportation funds would pay for an overpass stretching from River Watch Parkway to Greene Street, giving motorists better access to the busy medical district by avoiding the railroad crossing near 15th and Greene streets.

Bio-technology and judicial districts:

City planners would encourage new medical businesses to locate between the central business and medical districts, and would build government facilities in the area surrounding the existing U.S. District Courthouse.