Community wants more options

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Andre Griffin is faced with the question every time he wants to go shopping for clothes or take his family out to something classier than a buffet restaurant:

Andre Griffin lives in south Augusta and says he is tired of having to drive far from his home to shop or go to a nice restaurant.  Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Kendrick Brinson/Staff
Andre Griffin lives in south Augusta and says he is tired of having to drive far from his home to shop or go to a nice restaurant.

How far do I want to drive?

It's one many south Augusta residents ask themselves because of the dearth of retail and restaurant options in the city's fastest-growing area.

The answer more times than not for Mr. Griffin, a 20-year resident of the Sand Ridge neighborhood off Tobacco Road, is to make a half-hour trek to west Augusta or Columbia County.

The 51-year-old Fort Gordon retiree said he wants to be able to take his family to a nice restaurant that's not too far from his home, adding "I want to be able to go to a nice movie theater."

But there are no multiplexes or Bonefish Grills, Targets or Kohl's stores, all major name brand chains, anywhere within what is considered south Augusta. There are, however, seemingly endless stretches of fast food joints, used car lots, discount stores, pawn shops and convenience stores along Gordon Highway and Deans Bridge, Peach Orchard, Windsor Spring and Tobacco roads, the major thoroughfares in south Augusta.

Along a four-mile stretch of Gordon Highway, from Deans Bridge Road to Barton Chapel Road, there are more than a dozen used car lots.

Sammy Sias, the president of the Richmond County Neighborhood Association and a longtime Sand Ridge resident, wants more for his area. That's why his group and former mayoral candidate Steven Kendrick are asking the Augusta Commission to create an agency whose primary purpose would be to market south Augusta to major retailers.

As incoming Downtown Development Authority board chairman, Mr. Kendrick said he's heard complaints that no one's helping the southside.

The new organization would be similar to what the city center has with the downtown authority, and it would be responsible for, among other things, updating the area's image and erasing whatever stigma is keeping investors away.

"If I wanted to buy three cases of copier paper and three staplers for my office, where would I go in south Augusta?" Mr. Sias said.

GETTING WHAT Mr. Sias and many of the more than 110,000 people who live in south Augusta might want will likely come down to two things: demographics and determination.

The demographic part doesn't necessarily help the area's prospects.

According to estimates generated by market analysis service DemographicsNow -- whose figures are derived from census trends, births, deaths, building permits, Internal Revenue Service statistics and other indicators -- south Augusta still has a lot of catching up to do before it can compete with Columbia County.

Mr. Sias' proposed development authority would cover all the territory south of Gordon Highway and the Belair Road area west of Bobby Jones Expressway. The estimated average household income in that area is $43,499, according to DemographicsNow.

In comparison, the average household income in the areas where most new retail is steering is $65,484 in west Augusta and $77,439 in Columbia County.

There are pockets of greater affluence in south Augusta, though. The census tract that includes Willis Foreman Road and Diamond Lakes Regional Park has an estimated average household income of $50,092, and it's estimated at $49,890 for the tract that includes Meadowbrook Drive.

A RECENT SURVEY of national retailers showed median income and total households are the two most important market indicators for retailers, said Elsie Achugbue, a research analyst with Washington, D.C.-based Social Compact, a nonprofit that promotes investment in underserved communities.

Other factors, such as educational attainment, are factors for certain retailers.

Only 12 percent of those 25 and older in south Augusta are college-educated, compared with 37 percent in west Augusta and 35 percent in Columbia County.

South Augusta is 59 percent black, while west Augusta is 60 percent white and Columbia County is 79 percent white.

Asked whether racial demographics matter, Ms. Achugbe said it's always an issue, even if it isn't talked about.

"There are retailers that are more comfortable, if that's the right word, with the urban market, diverse markets, ethnic markets," she said.

Carolina Valencia, an associate director of research for Social Compact, said lower-income areas often have difficulties in attracting upper-end retail.

"It's not the retailers' choice to penalize the community," Ms. Valencia said. "At the end of the day, the retailer is a for-profit entity and wants to sell its product. If it knew that it had a way to make profit in any market, it will go in."

HERE'S WHERE determination comes in. Sometimes, Ms. Valencia said, a community must make an extra effort to show retailers it will support them.

"It really is a question of how can a city make a neighborhood attractive for the retailer that you want to come," she said.

Mr. Sias envisions that the proposed authority, employing a full-time executive director, would help make the case for his community. But the prospect of another government-funded agency doesn't thrill some city officials.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver didn't hesitate to call it a bad idea. Two south Augusta commissioners, Calvin Holland Sr. of District 5 and Joe Jackson of District 6, expressed skepticism.

The commission and the mayor's office are already working to bring new business to south Augusta, they said. Mr. Holland, who said he wouldn't support the plan, noted he's in talks with investors from several restaurant chains, which he declined to name.

Mr. Copenhaver said south Augusta's business landscape will improve with the expansion of Plant Vogtle and the new National Security Agency center at Fort Gordon, both of which should bring thousands of new jobs.

He said he's more worried about unchecked growth leading to sprawl and traffic congestion in south Augusta, and he hopes to allocate special purpose local option sales tax funds for beautification projects along gateways such as Doug Barnard Parkway, Mike Padgett Highway and Peach Orchard and Deans Bridge roads.

"The key is the planning process," Mr. Copenhaver said. "I am not in favor of setting up another bureaucracy."

Mr. Sias said if the mayor and the commission are in charge of recruiting, he only has to look around to see that they're falling down on the job.

"We need to know where the results are, because right now, the results aren't there," he said.

SOUTH AUGUSTA'S old image might be as big a factor as any in what does and doesn't come there, according to some.

Gayla Moore, a vice president with Meybohm Realtors who has sold real estate in the Augusta area, including south Augusta, for 10 years, attributes the lack of retail growth to an image that harkens back decades when south Augusta was less developed than the rest of the county. That began to change in the 1990s as more people looked to move from the urban core to suburban neighborhoods.

Now, homes rival those in Columbia County, she said, noting that homes in one new subdivision, the Lakes at Spirit Creek, run in the upper-$200,000s to $300,000 range.

"The south Augusta market doesn't really have a chance sometimes because it's kind of already written off," she said.

"It's not that (businesses) wouldn't have the traffic to support them coming here," Ms. Moore said. "It's just that the people have to have the businesses to go to first. The opportunity is there, but there is no one that's really saying, 'Let's focus on South Augusta.' "

Reach Johnny Edwards and Mike Wynn at (706) 724-0851.

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Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 02/10/08 - 02:38 am
0
0
I remember when South Aug had

I remember when South Aug had our first Dunkin Donuts, it closed. I remember when South Aug had a Godfathers Pizza and a Fudruckers both closed. I remember when the Regency Mall was booming and I went there to shop, eat, play at the arcade and watch movies. I also remember I couldn't wait to grow up so I could get in the Dog House. Where did the Nissan, Toyota and Honda dealers move to? What happened to Buildarama and Otasco? Williams Seafood closed and a sports bar took it's place and failed.What about the drive-in? What happened to Applebees on Wrightsboro Rd?

catfish20
250
Points
catfish20 02/10/08 - 08:49 am
0
0
Sconyers, Applebees, Lowes

Sconyers, Applebees, Lowes and numerous Mexican Restaurants are doing a brisk business. My husband and I are both white and have college degrees. Most of my neighbors are also college graduates. We have money to spend and will support any business that locates in the southern section of Richmond County....Goshen area would be great.

Silent
0
Points
Silent 02/10/08 - 09:11 am
0
0
I own businesses in all parts

I own businesses in all parts of the CSRA and soon to close them on the south side. Why? The cost, the hiring base and the genral attitude of a fair share of the customers.

When alot of the folks on the south and west side stop trying to negoiate services like it was a used car lot, stop trying to get something for nothing and stop using the placs for business as their own personal venting relief. Maybe we would stay and more would come your way.

Gracious folks. Just watch your neighbors when your in these establishments.

Just Me2
0
Points
Just Me2 02/10/08 - 09:31 am
0
0
Silent, you just want to move

Silent, you just want to move to Columbia County to make more money..stop talking trash.
I am white also and I KNOW I am probably gonna be the only one brave enough to say this
South Augusta is simply too dark for anyone to want to open buisness in, you are all prejudiced and think that South Augusta is all poor
Let Fort Gordon close and let's see how well your buisness does! hummmmmmmmm
Oh yes, I am also an army brat.
I deserve to eat at BONEFISH GRILL also if I like without driving to Washington Road!
This city is all about the rich and THE MASTERS!
BTW, Masters guest, don't forget to tip the housekeeper that cleans your room each day while you are out there enjoying something that they will never be able to afford to see. Ever come back to your nice clean room and relaz and think to yourself, the lady who makes my stay so pleasant, she gets min wage and although I may pay $400 a night, she gets none of that!! Not even a bonus from this greedy employer.
TIP your housekeepers please, I know several of these women.
They work hard to make you comfortable

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 02/10/08 - 10:21 am
0
0
I forgot Circuit City, Best

I forgot Circuit City, Best Buy and Western Auto. Why does gas cost more in South Augusta. Why can't you use debit cards at some of the gas stations there? What happened to the money making drag strip, did the people not want it? It would have been big as the masters. Actually bigger cause it would have been used year round. Don't cry about the noise, I live near a train track that runs at all times of the night.

Ushouldnthave
0
Points
Ushouldnthave 02/10/08 - 10:40 am
0
0
Good businesses move because

Good businesses move because of crime!!! South Augusta is notorious for it. It makes more sense to place a business in a safe area and make the criminals drive a little. Until the community can stop their kids from stealing and killing, get used to the prepaide cell phone stores, car washes and second hand stores

Kenya_Beard
0
Points
Kenya_Beard 02/10/08 - 10:45 am
0
0
Suzy you don't DESERVE

Suzy you don't DESERVE anything!!! Your parents might since they serve this country but you come across as just a SPOILED brat. Don't [filtered word] and moan about those making less, hell we all could use more money, but if you can afford to eat at Bonefish regularly then you are not hurting for cash. Nowhere does it say that a business person has to cater to every class and every section to maintain its license. They have the right to do business where ever they wish. And yes it is driven by money because we live in a capitalistic society. You don't like your job then get a new one. Maybe even open up your own Bonefish and rake in all that money you think is possible in South Augusta. Also I got tickets to the practice round this year but am I wealthy? NO!! I put my name into the lottery just like everyone else and have been for years. Sometimes I get them and sometimes I don't but I am not blaming whitey or the man that's just the way it is. If I think I deserve something better then I find a way to obtain it (legally i might add). I would like to say thank you to your parents for serving and protecting our freedom but if you could shut up that would be nice.

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 02/10/08 - 11:05 am
0
0
Don't anybody mention T's or
Unpublished

Don't anybody mention T's or Villa Europa, two of ANY areas finest - they're too crowded already - keep the secret.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 02/10/08 - 11:12 am
0
0
I was gonna say I hope Villa

I was gonna say I hope Villa europa doesn't move but now that the secret's out.........

Fiat_Lux
15072
Points
Fiat_Lux 02/10/08 - 11:27 am
0
0
The biggest problem is that

The biggest problem is that South Augusta residents just didn't bother to support the businesses that actually were located in South Augusta. A prime example of this was the Waccamaw store, once located where The Fresh Market is now. Business was so good they expanded by moving to the old SAMs building, now a Goodwill store, behind Augusta Mall. In a huge miscalculation of the demographic shift going on in Richmond County during the years between 1985-1995, that was gone within a couple of years. South Augustan, even the college educated, affluent and relatively sophisticated have shown themselves perfectly satisfied by a steady diet of what Walmart offers, with occasional excursions out for something better. Those who want a better neighborhood ambiance and more options for spending their money have found it easier to move west.

juljohn
0
Points
juljohn 02/10/08 - 11:32 am
0
0
My husband and I make well

My husband and I make well over the amount stated in the article for West Augusta, and yes we continue to live and work in Richmond County. Most of us South Augustans choose to stay where we are. We enjoy less congestion and a little breathing room. My nightmare would be traveling Bobby Jones into Evans on a daily basis!
I do agree we need more choices in South Augusta, but the ones we have seem to be full most weekends.
It's also not a black white thing. People where is the love?

dani
12
Points
dani 02/10/08 - 11:52 am
0
0
What happened to buying a

What happened to buying a franchise and opening a restaurant yourself? For the residents who can afford it,put your own money at risk. BTW How is the Applebee's on Peach Orchard doing?

dani
12
Points
dani 02/10/08 - 12:11 pm
0
0
Not too many years ago

Not too many years ago businesses left the south side of Augusta and moved to Wrightsboro Rd, then they were forced to Washington Rd and now..the location is Evans. I live on 'the Hill' and I probably have as great a distance to travel as those in the southern part of town. Most people are looking for a clean , safe!!, and friendly place with good food. That shouldn't be too much to ask.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 02/10/08 - 03:29 pm
0
0
dani in answer to your

dani in answer to your question, Applebee's is full constantly. But due to an increase in hoodlums and fights they have felt the need to hire deputies on the weekends to keep the "family" atmosphere. Ruby Tuesday bought up property on Peach Orchard Rd. next to the NEW Lulu's car wash. They then turned right around and sold the property due to crime. I have spoken to Denny's about opening up in the old Bojangles on Peach Orchard location. The answer was a resounding "NO". I know for a fact that a lot of business do not want to open in South Augusta due to the "dark" factor. Regardless of income. Think of those soldiers who spend all of their paychecks every weekend on Washington Rd. If you built a Target on Tobacco Rd. near McDonalds or even closer to Ft. Gordon, don't you think they would have more than enough business? I would think so, but it is too dark for those types of businesses to open in that part of Augusta. I am white, I work on the South side of town in a position where I see it all, law enforcement. I know of million dollar houses south of Willis Foreman. Plant Vogle engineers live there.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 02/10/08 - 03:41 pm
0
0
I know of many retired

I know of many retired military men and women who live around Tobacco Rd. and still make very good money and spend accordingly. I agree with the previous post about the drag strip. Living near an airport or train tracks is much more noisy than having to worry about car engines for 4 hours a week. Trains and planes run 24 hours a day. Big time drag races are during the day time. Not at 3 in the morning. If you wouldn't like the noise, go to Columbia County and shop for the day! By the time you get through traffic on Washington Rd and Bobby Jones, The races would be over. South Augusta needs something to draw people away from Wash Rd. Look at the annual draw of the boat races. Think of the location in East Augusta where those are held... People come from all over Augusta and the country to go down to "the bottom" to watch the boats 1 weekend a year. I am only using that as an example people. Maybe we could move the "fairgrounds" toward South Augusta? Those have tendencies to be big draws if held in the right location. You could make it bigger with more attractions and actual exhibit halls, like real fairs have. Those are just some ideas to draw people from other parts of the area.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 02/10/08 - 03:51 pm
0
0
Once corporate businesses see

Once corporate businesses see a big attraction, or something that would draw people, they will build. Its the ol cash cow theory. One last thing, the comment someone posted about people from South Augusta always using the used car mentality when shopping. You are right to a point. People go to eat at these places, complain about the food and then EXPECT to get a free or discounted meal. But that happens all over town. People are abusing the system. I have seen that first hand also. I also am getting tired of the "whoa is me, pity me because I live in South Augusta" attitudes of those who live there. If you really want to make a difference, then do it yourself! Stop asking for handouts and trying to get pity from everyone else. It is that kind of attitude that makes people not care at all. If you want something then work for it and earn it. It you work hard people will be more willing to listen when you come up with ideas like a development group. If you want a Bonefish, start a petition, start a business group with your friends, and go get it. The like all things Augusta, you have to support it when it does come.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 02/10/08 - 03:55 pm
0
0
A Sams club, Costco, or BJ's

A Sams club, Costco, or BJ's would be great in the area of Bobby Jones and Doug Barnard. You think if we sit back and wait they will think of that? Not likely. Maybe a petition to the corp. offices might start that ball rolling. Augusta needs another Sam's for sure. I hate waiting 2 hours to check out when I shop there. I am done ranting now. I just hate to see the closed mindedness of Augusta and the lack of forethought. If you want change, make it happen.

Phish
0
Points
Phish 02/10/08 - 04:31 pm
0
0
I grew up on Old Waynesboro

I grew up on Old Waynesboro Rd. I can remember having to go down 56 all the way to Lumpkin rd and cut across to Hiway 1 to get on BJ Expressway. I loved it then, Now I live in Blythe (Burke County, thank God) and I can't bring myself to go down Old W'boro Rd. They built too may houses on top of old memories. I am a Army brat and I actually did my Basic Training at Ft Gordon. I reported 52k this year to uncle and I just came back from after church lunch at Veracruz. My point is, I am content and thankful for what I have. I want everyone to be content and happy. If you can't be happy in S. Augusta be happy somewhere else.

georgiasouthern
5
Points
georgiasouthern 02/10/08 - 04:58 pm
0
0
Ruby Tuesday is hanging on

Ruby Tuesday is hanging on the fringe of chapter 11 THAT is why they sold the Peach Orchard RD. land ALONG with the Belair RD. land in hopes to rid their financial burden. Ruby Tuesday will not open any new locations for a while until their sales as a whole pick up. By the way Ihop is locating where Ruby Tuesday WAS going to go. They plan to be open by sumer of this year.

georgiasouthern
5
Points
georgiasouthern 02/10/08 - 05:20 pm
0
0
By the way if the "DARK"

By the way if the "DARK" factor means that businesses will not do well then look at Stone Crest in East Atlanta. That area is around 65 to 70 % Black was built because the demographics was there to support it. That was in 2001. Now 7 years later that area is THRIVING to the point that it would make Evans look sick. Thankfully the developers of Stone Crest did not use the "DARK" factor to determine whether or not to build it. I am white and I have NEVER once felt unsafe at Stone Crest and I eat there many times on my way to and from Atlanta. Many whites in Conyers feel the same way. All of the affluent Blacks moved from Chandler Rd. and Wesley Chapel Rd. because it became like Gordon Hwy. and Deans Bridge Rd. Maybe Diamond Lakes and Cambridge can be the start of a Stone Crest like development for Augusta. Whites move away from the city to get away from the crime and so do blacks. This is why Diamond Lakes and the outer edges of South Augusta is actually nice which is a far cry from Deans Bridge Rd. and Gordon Hwy.

JAndy
4
Points
JAndy 02/10/08 - 05:51 pm
0
0
Nobody in their right mind

Nobody in their right mind would put a business on that side of South Augusta anymore. It was bad enough when I was growing up there now. Businesses what help improve that area. It will raise the crime rate.

pofwe
5
Points
pofwe 02/10/08 - 06:52 pm
0
0
It makes no difference

It makes no difference whether your speed your $$ in West, East, or South Augusta, to the Augusta-Richmond County Commission. Just don't take it North to NA, SC.

420Time
0
Points
420Time 02/10/08 - 08:26 pm
0
0
These FOOLS need to realize

These FOOLS need to realize it is not the role of government to provide restaurants and other businesses they are desiring. Business will only go where it can make a PROFIT. PROFIT and PROFIT alone is the only reason for any business to open. RACE doesn't matter. If South Augusta remained predominately Black but increased to mostly middle class or better w/ a low crime rate the desired businesses would rush in like a Tsunami. South Augusta needs to clean itself up and polish its image.

canalfishing
2
Points
canalfishing 02/10/08 - 08:30 pm
0
0
I think the people of south

I think the people of south augusta should be able entertain their family's just like the $100,000 TRAILERS that they pay $6,000 dollars a year in taxes on , people of Evans. Quit fighting so much. crime is way up in Richville. look at all them old CHILDREN molesters coming back to life, and lots of Meth heads. by 2015 evans would look like the old peach orchard rd

luckie
2
Points
luckie 02/10/08 - 09:46 pm
0
0
I moved from south augusta.

I moved from south augusta. I miss it. I do not miss the crime. I miss my old neighbors. However, they divorced and section 8 moved in. I think there were five section 8 homes on my street. Wow! I had to go. It took a burglary to wake me up. Sometimes I wonder if I should have stayed and gotten a gun. Anyway, the two most enjoyable places that my family frequented were the old walmart where sitel is now and shoney's that use to be on gordon highway.

BakersfieldCityLimits
1
Points
BakersfieldCityLimits 02/10/08 - 11:10 pm
0
0
To think that it is the

To think that it is the governments job to try and get shops and resurants to open in south augusta is the stupidist idea that I have heard in a while. The dirty secret that no one will actually tell you is this; Your sheriff's office is dwindling down to nothing. There are about 35 deputies that are in the process of going to vogel, aiken co., col. co, etc. There is not the money to finance every want that the people of richmond county have. I would like to live in West Lake in a 20,000 sq. ft house. I want a 95,000 Rolls to drive. If I get these things it will be because I WORKED for them not asked my government to provide them for me. You think its a good idea to build a resturant in south augusta, take your money and build it, be succesful and beat me to westlake.

gcap
290
Points
gcap 02/10/08 - 11:24 pm
0
0
The dirtiest word in the

The dirtiest word in the dictionary is "deserve." No one deserves anything they haven't earned. South Richmond County is constantly in the headlines as is Columbia and Aiken Counties, North Augusta, and west Richmond. The difference is that the headlines from south Richmond almost always refer to crime, much of it violent. No one deserves that but don't expect anything for nothing. Ask owners how successful they are or the wait staffs how many tips they get. Ask restaurant chains to consider south Augusta. Don't be surprised at the answers. Right now, south Richmond County doesn't deserve new businesses.

cparker
68
Points
cparker 02/11/08 - 12:18 am
0
0
I own three businesses in

I own three businesses in south Augusta and they are all successful. South Augusta will soon grow beyond belief, this is not just optimism this is reality. Highway 25 and Highway 56 are becoming the gateways to south Georgia and Florida. South Augusta has a poor image problem in part that many Columbia county residentsportrays it as a dungeon or black eye for the city. There is no need for me to remind folks about the little girls at Greenbrier having sex parties, Lakeside coaches cheating at football, the growing number of meth labs being found in Columbia county, and never mind the drunk state representative, (R)Ben Harbin). South Augusta has plenty to offer, even without the restaurants. Diamond Lakes is beautiful. South Augusta has land where people can retire on 5-10 acres creating their own oasis. The only highschool to make the top 100 nationally is in RC. Only a fool would believe that south Augusta has nothing to offer. Ft. Gordon, International Paper, Thermal Ceramics, MCG and UH, & DSM Chemicals are some of the best employers in the city and they all have one thing in common..the are in August-RC. South Augusta will be a paradise again someday...Just look at Aiken, SC.

Ron Martin CPP
2
Points
Ron Martin CPP 02/11/08 - 10:50 pm
0
0
I hope each of you will

I hope each of you will attend the next Pride n Progress meeting. The energy displayed here would assist Commissioner Smith and HBA move South Augusta forward!

MartinezWest Augusta
2
Points
MartinezWest Augusta 02/11/08 - 11:06 pm
0
0
All of i know there are alot

All of i know there are alot of 300,000 dollar homes being built in the new south augusta area.

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