If Mayor Bob Young has his way, the days of the trolley will be making a return trip to downtown Augusta.
"Communities that promote their uniqueness and their differences are communities that succeed in attracting visitors," he said. "And certainly the trolley is a historic part of this city, and we ought to take a look at putting it back in on Broad Street."
The mayor expressed his views about the trolley with city planners at a Tuesday meeting regarding downtown's future streetscape plans, to include traffic and sidewalk improvements. The meeting was later opened to the public to get input on needed downtown improvements that could be funded by the upcoming special purpose local option sales tax - up to $15 million. A second public meeting will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Marbury Center on Broad.
Mr. Young said Tuesday that he favors a removal of Broad Street's parking bays for a "nice green pedestrian belt."
He said he also discussed a possible traffic circle at Broad and 13th streets, a removal of the city's chamber of commerce building from the middle of Broad and more metered parking. He said if the bays were removed and replaced with greenspace, the parking spaces could be moved to Jones and Ellis streets, with passageways to Broad.
"You'd actually park behind businesses instead of in front of them," he said.
Planners presented those concepts and more Tuesday afternoon to about 20 residents and business owners at the Marbury Center. Some who attended said removal of the parking bays and relocation of parking spaces would be devastating.
"That's the kiss of death," said Tice Brashear, the president of Brashear Realty Corporation on Broad Street. "... You can make it as pretty as you want, but if you make it hard for our customers, they're going to go to the mall."
Bob Raburn, who lives in River Place Condominiums at Seventh Street, said parking bay removal is "not reasonable." His response to the trolley proposal?
"No, No!" he said, adding, "You don't have that many sites to see (downtown)."
"We've got enough parks down here," said Albin Sikora, the vice president of the River Place Condominium Association "We need some viable businesses, and parking is critical to that."
Planners, however, said nothing has been decided yet and that Tuesday's meeting was designed to get public input.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or firstname.lastname@example.org.