Originally created 05/05/04

Plans may be a wash if road project starts



Ashley Weeks' plan to build a self-service car wash on Jones Street looks less like a promising investment and more like a washout.

The land he purchased for the future business, he recently found out, sits squarely in the way of a $25 million road project to extend St. Sebastian Way from Walton Way to Reynolds Street - straight through the middle of 1.5 acres he bought late last year between 14th and 15th streets.

Mr. Weeks says he was well aware that the project, floated about a decade ago to alleviate traffic around downtown train crossings, would be in the vicinity, but didn't know exactly where until an Atlanta-based engineering firm began taking soil samples a few weeks ago. That put his planned $600,000 investment - half of which he has already shelled out to purchase and clear the land - into a holding pattern.

"At this point I'm not sure if building the car wash is the right thing to do," said Mr. Weeks, who owns a transmission shop just up the block on Jones Street and an auto repair garage at 13th and Ellis streets.

He had hoped to construct two single-story buildings side-by-side - a modern self-service car wash he would own, and the other for a business already on the property, Classic Car Care, which hand washes and waxes vehicles. Mr. Weeks would first level Classic Car Care's existing building.

With the road project scheduled to start as early as the end of 2005, the hassle may not be worth it, even with the city's paying him and other property owners fair market value for land and businesses in the project's path.

St. Sebastian is a small street that runs through the medical district and ends at Walton Way.

Travis Davidson, the manager of the road project for the Augusta Public Works and Engineering Department, said the blueprint envisions St. Sebastian snaking its way over the canal to a widened four-lane Greene Street. From there it would split into two directions: one would take a motorist up an overpass to River Watch Parkway near King Mill; the other would let drivers continue straight through Broad, Jones and Reynolds streets.

Both routes were designed to cut down on congestion around train crossings, especially during rush-hour commutes to and from the medical district.

The construction costs will be covered by federal and state funds secured when former Congressman Doug Barnard was in office. The remainder, about a third, will pay for land and moving utilities that come from city funds collected by a series of special sales taxes earmarked for such projects.

Though the car wash idea is doubtful, Mr. Weeks still says he plans to make the best of it. He might set aside some of the land left untouched by St. Sebastian for a small used-car lot and temporary parking space to accommodate his other businesses - ideas he had before he knew about the road project.

"Buying the land was a good idea and I'm confident we'll do something with it that can benefit our businesses," he said. "Whether it's a car wash or not."

Reach Matthew Mogul at (706) 823-3352 or matthew.mogul@augustachronicle.com.