Originally created 12/15/01

Objections end plans for party



Unable to resolve the concerns of several Broad Street merchants, city organizers planning a downtown street party for New Year's Eve have canceled the event.

The Mayor's New Year's Eve Party, which was being coordinated by the Greater Augusta Arts Council, was supposed to have been held along Broad Street between Eighth and 10th streets Dec. 31.

The event would have closed the road to traffic in the early afternoon Dec. 31 in preparation for the event and reopened it the next day.

But several downtown merchants objected.

"They're wanting to put something down here that's not productive," said Johnny Finley, the owner of State Jury of Augusta and United Loan and Firearms, both located in the 1000 block of Broad Street.

"We would have to close up our shops because they were going to close off the street in the middle of the day," Mr. Finley said. "We lose revenue and fund a party that's using our tax dollars. There's no point in it because customers can't get to you."

He said that, although foot traffic could still come through, downtown shoppers expect to be able to park in front of shops and not walk a block or two.

The Downtown Development Authority, which was supposed to donate $5,000 toward the event, decided that because of some merchants' concerns, its board would fund the event only if party officials agreed to leave the street open until 4 p.m.

Organizers said that didn't allow enough time for setup.

"The issues were getting too complex and were taking too many resources from the city and the arts council that we needed to start putting in other directions," Mayor Bob Young said. "So we went ahead and canceled it."

The decision was made Thursday afternoon, drawing disappointment from event organizers and supportive downtown stakeholders.

"The owners and merchants (against the party) don't realize that closing the street down doesn't mean closing off their business," said Brenda Durant, the executive director of the arts council.

"Other cities do this," Ms. Durant said. "This is not something that's surprising or unusual. This is a common practice."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215.