Originally created 03/06/03

Glut of studies slows work



There are more than a dozen plans and studies in print dealing with issues facing downtown Augusta.

The problem is that no one keeps track of all the plans, a group of business owners and community leaders said Wednesday.

Rick Toole, the chairman of Main Street Augusta, originally scheduled Wednesday's five-hour strategy session to help the merchants group focus on its role in the development of downtown.

He soon found out that the issue extends much further than Main Street.

Most of the 20 participants said downtown's most pressing need is a single, comprehensive master plan.

"Everybody has a good idea about what ought to be done, but no one knows how to put it together," said Tom Robertson, the president of Cranston Robertson & Whitehurst P.C. engineering firm on Ellis Street.

Plans already created include Augusta Tomorrow's outline, which lists completed projects, such as the Augusta Common, and discusses future projects, such as an Augusta State University facility and government offices located downtown.

There also is Destination 2020's ongoing work and numerous retail, parking and real estate studies on file from Main Street and the Downtown Development Authority.

With a lot of the information already compiled and issues identified, hiring more consultants to make another downtown master plan might not be necessary, said Brenda Durant, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council.

"I think we're getting closer to where we want to be than we think," said Ms. Durant, who led one of Destination 2020's boards.

Mr. Toole said that after Masters Week he would like to hold another gathering, during which the various groups that have already examined downtown can share their information.

There is a possibility that a new board will form to start combining the work.

"It (the strategy session) did provide some parameters that are of general concern," Mr. Toole said. "From that perspective, I believe it will give me the necessary background that will address what portion of those challenges will belong to Main Street."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.