Originally created 01/31/06

Council gets plans for complex



NORTH AUGUSTA - The city is considering a municipal complex design that would dominate its skyline from the Savannah River to the top of Georgia Avenue.

The Boudreaux Group, a Columbia architecture firm hired to design the planned building, showed its first draft to the North Augusta City Council at a study session last week.

The asymmetrical design included four stories and a rectangular tower on top, yet it maintained a traditional style.

"This tower is just going to light up like a beacon," said Randall Huth, an architect with The Boudreaux Group. "You can see it from everywhere."

It would also bring natural light into the atrium and two-story lobby, added Boudreaux architect Heather Mitchell.

Council members provided feedback on the design but officials declined to release drawings, saying it was too soon. City leaders hope to have the building finished by July 2008.

It will be at the intersection of Georgia and Bluff avenues, and at a new road that will extend from the intersection to the riverfront.

Mr. Huth said the building will need a prominent facade if it is going to act as a bookend to Lookaway Hall, the city's most recognizable landmark at Georgia and Forest avenues.

"If we're going to bookend Lookaway, we need that traditional look," Councilwoman Carolyn Baggott said.

The proposed design, which covers more than 73,000 square feet, includes space for city council chambers, administrative offices, public functions and exhibits. It also features outdoor terraces and a circular staircase.

Architects discussed including a trail through the property's existing vegetation to the Greeneway as part of the project.

According to city officials, construction will be paid for with $5 million in 1-cent capital projects sales tax money and a $4.5 million general obligation bond.

City Administrator Charles Martin said additional capital project sales and local hospitality taxes of $1.5 million for heritage and cultural arts expenditures could be contributed toward construction costs as well.

"Budget's not a problem while we're dreaming," Mayor Lark Jones said.

The council agreed that the building should include space for the North Augusta Cultural Arts Council and the Heritage Council of North Augusta.

"This is the best opportunity this city will have for many, many years to come to provide space for these two quality-of-life functions," Mr. Martin said. "The community hasn't developed its full potential in cultural arts and heritage preservation functions."

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.