Bridge to tomorrow

The vision of the future Augusta and North Augusta features hundreds of new houses along the Augusta Canal and a revitalized shopping district along Broad Street that links to a new riverfront baseball stadium.

It envisions a Savannah River amphitheater flanked by a new art museum and symphonic hall and millions of dollars invested in new parks.

The Augusta Tomorrow urban core development plan released Wednesday also suggests extending Broad Street into a new Sand Bar Ferry area housing subdivision, closing the Fifth Street bridge to traffic to create a pedestrian shopping bridge, and building a multimillion-dollar health sciences research park along the newly created St. Sebastian Way.

In all, Boston-based consulting firm ICON Architecture Inc. conceived of an estimated $1.5 billion in potential development projects for Augusta and North Augusta over the next 20 years.

"I think we've plowed new ground; it is planting fertile seeds that will get this whole area to grow in the future. It is something that will be the envy of the Southeast and the rest of the nation," said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, standing in the middle of the Fifth Street bridge Wednesday with North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones.

Augusta Tomorrow, a private group of visionaries, deemed its first master plan, completed in 1982, a success and embarked last year on a new master plan with a scope stretching beyond downtown.

"This is not a plan for Augusta that North Augusta has been a part of. This is not a plan for North Augusta that Augusta has been a part of," Mr. Jones said. "This is a plan for the whole area with the ultimate goal of us being able to do things that can compliment each other and make this a better place."

Augusta Tomorrow spent $275,000 on the plan. Of that, $95,000 came from the Augusta Commission, $31,000 from the North Augusta City Council and the rest from private donations.

The 200-page plan focuses on nine "market creation projects" that could revitalize neighborhoods in both cities. The projects are clusters of other projects that would create a destination attraction and be a catalyst for other development, said John Shields, a principal with ICON.

Many of the projects involve development along the river and the Augusta Canal. Those are resources that have been underused, Mr. Shields said.

The new plan is historic in that it represents a regional strategy focused on both sides of the Savannah River, said Braye Boardman, the chairman of the Augusta Tomorrow master plan task force.

"We are not only excited about the projects and the detail of the plan, but we're really excited about the joint planning effort by two communities that didn't have a lot of coordinated effort," Mr. Boardman said. "The river was the dividing line between North Augusta and Augusta. People go back and forth to work and to play all day, but we never did any joint planning."

Each of the projects involves a combination of public and private investment.

Mr. Boardman said the plan doesn't point to the city governments as "sugar daddies" to fund the projects.

"ICON is clearly putting the responsibility of getting these projects done on the various champions in the community," Mr. Boardman said.

The next step depends on community leaders or organizations adopting an idea and working to complete it. ICON suggested Augusta hire a development coordinator to oversee the plan's implementation.

ICON senior principal John Lane described the plan as a vision, but not "the recipe for the stew."

He also said a recession is a good time to have the pieces in place to begin work when the money becomes available to start the projects.

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch@augustachronicle.com.

Market creation projects

Learn more about each of the nine revitalization projects in the new Augusta/North Augusta Urban Core Master Plan.

Read the complete master plan online by visiting www.augustatomorrow.com.

  • The Big Idea: A town center can be created around the new municipal building. Cost: $50 million private, $5 million public
  • The Big Idea: Tie Augusta and North Augusta together with a waterfront development spanning the Savannah River. Cost: $90 million private, $25 million public
  • The Big Idea: Redevelop vacant riverfront land into an arts and entertainment center. Cost: $80 million private, $30 million public
  • The Big Idea: Revitalize three blocks of Broad Street into a unique urban village. Cost: $150 million private, $50 million public
  • The Big Idea: Create a residential neighborhood on Greene and Telfair streets around a new Third Level Canal park. Cost: $140 million private, $8 million public
  • The Big Idea: Reinforce the connection between the medical district and downtown with a new high-tech campus. Cost: $500 million private/non-profit, $38 million public
  • The Big Idea: Give Harrisburg a new image and identity with a mixed-use retail center. Cost: $100 million private, $25 million public
  • The Big Idea: Capitalize on the new judicial center to create housing and commercial space around Dyess Park. Cost: $50 million private, $17 million public
  • The Big Idea: Develop a mile of forgotten riverfront land with parks and a "new urbanist" village. Cost: $100 million private, $38 million public