Men construct ideas for model city

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Try to imagine it. Augusta takes off.

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An aerial view of part of a model of an imagined Telfair Station by Michael Teffeteller. The station includes retail space, dining areas, office space, the Augusta Judicial Center and entertainment spots. KENDRICK BRINSON/STAFF..  Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Kendrick Brinson/Staff
An aerial view of part of a model of an imagined Telfair Station by Michael Teffeteller. The station includes retail space, dining areas, office space, the Augusta Judicial Center and entertainment spots. KENDRICK BRINSON/STAFF..

Really, really takes off.

It's what Kelley New and Michael Teffeteller dream of when they sit down with cardboard, spray paint, felt and glue and build their miniature, architectural concept models of Augusta streetscapes that don't exist, but could.

There's the old Union Center train station rebuilt and attached to James Brown Arena with a massive exhibition hall and banquet area.

There's a closed-off section of the Fifth Street bridge on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, converted into a condominium community called The Bridge at River North, with a greenway park on top and units and a swimming pool below.

There's a 30,000-seat racetrack at the intersection of Gordon Highway and Doug Barnard Parkway.

Then there's Mr. Teffeteller's most ambitious creation, Telfair Station at Midtown - a sprawling lifestyle center off Ninth Street between Walton Way and Telfair Street.

Along with a new Judicial Center, there's an IMAX theater, a 13-story condominium building, a retail mall, a grocery store, underground parking and a clock tower. The train tracks have been barricaded off and hidden by landscaping. The Augusta Canal is lined with picnic areas and has pedestrian bridges crossing it.

These are visions of what Augusta could look like if it had a truly functional government, millions of dollars in private investments and a little oomph, the two men said.

Most of the toy-size models - 13 of the 15 - are Mr. Teffeteller's. The Fifth Street bridge project was Mr. New's idea, and he commissioned Mr. Teffeteller to design it. The two have been working together for about two years after meeting at a reception for James Brown at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, where Mr. Teffeteller was showing his model of a "James Brown Rock and Soul Cafe."

"It's a hobby," said Mr. Teffeteller, who manages a distribution center for a packing supplies company, "things I would like to see happen in Augusta, but that never seem to materialize."

BUT NOT ALL OF THEM are pipe dreams. Mr. New said an Atlanta developer got wind of The Bridge at River North, came to see it, and is talking with investors about acquiring the bridge from South Carolina's highway department. It was closed in 1995 because of a crack found in concrete support pylon.

Two other of Mr. New's models have inspired actual projects. He built one depicting part of the 500 block of Broad Street converted into Magnolia Alley, with residential flats, an upscale restaurant, a courtyard with fountains and a produce market. It so impressed real estate broker Janie Peel and home inspector Ryan Peel that they became Mr. New's partners, and work on Magnolia Alley is expected to begin in April.

They're also his partners in building townhouses at Bay and Reynolds streets - also based on a model by Mr. New showing three Charleston, S.C.,-style, three-story buildings with rooftop gardens.

Of all places, the models are stored in the upper floors of the Lamar Building, whose boxy glass penthouse is both the top of the city's skyline and a looming monument of a past failed effort to revamp the city center. Mr. New has been the building's interior designer for the past six years, and worked there in the 1970s, when the skyscraper was the hub of former wealthy state Sen. R. Eugene Holley's empire.

THAT DECADE SAW THE first push to breathe new life into downtown, as the golden age of the 1950s and 1960s came to an end with the exodus of residents to the suburbs and businesses to suburban shopping malls. Mr. Holley brought world-renowned New York architect I.M. Pei to Augusta to redesign the Lamar Building, design the civic center and Chamber of Commerce building and reshape the center of Broad Street into plaza parks and parking pits.

It proved too little too late. Two malls opened back-to-back in 1978, siphoning away retail and vitality from downtown. Meanwhile, a federal investigation into Mr. Holley's business dealings saw him imprisoned after a 1980 fraud conviction. He died in 2000.

Mr. New, who also did interior design work for the senator's yachts and vacation homes, said his old boss would have loved the models, and in his heyday probably would have jumped on the ideas.

"Gene would have flipped out, totally," Mr. New said. "I just wish I had done some back then when I was working with him."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

kendrick brinson/staff

To view more of Mr. New's and Mr. Teffeteller's models, go to augustachronicle.com/metro.

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tirosha.stewart
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tirosha.stewart 12/02/07 - 12:09 pm
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it is about time somebody

it is about time somebody want to fix up Disgusta. i hope that downtown upgrade to an eye sore by the time i come back from Iraq next year.

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