In your words: Heart of town is in full swing

Business is booming in downtown Augusta.


Though for some that might be hard to believe (because negative information runs through town faster than the positive) it is very much true. The year 2006 was an exciting year for our downtown.

There has always been activity along Broad Street, and as each day goes by, the activity gains more momentum.

Downtown Augusta certainly is "In Full Swing."

In 2006, there was a net gain of 63 new businesses operating in the central business district, including the Georgia Medical Center Authority, Le Chat Noir Playhouse, Metro Spirit, Blue Magnolia, Jury Room, New Moon Caf, Red Hugh's Irish Pub and Mid-Town Threads.

In addition to the newcomers, the Bee's Knees and Lofty Ideas both expanded and the Book Tavern moved up the street to Artists Row. In all, Augusta's thriving downtown created 269 jobs.

Though construction Dumpsters are unsightly and inconvenient, they are a sign of progress and private investment. ESI is close to completing its beautiful renovation of its building at 823 Broad St. next to the Augusta Common, while Haltermann Properties built out six new loft apartments in the 1100 block of Broad.

By the end of 2006, there was $7.9 million invested in downtown by the private sector. Folks, that is something to celebrate.

First Friday might get more publicity than any other event in downtown Augusta, but it is certainly not the only one taking place. Last year saw huge growth for the Saturday Market on Broad, with more than $39,000 raised through private sponsors, vendor fees and in-kind donations. The funding allowed for the addition of special Fall and Holiday Markets that were extremely well-attended.

The Saturday Market on Broad is already gearing up for another great year in 2007 and is set to kick off the season of fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, crafts, baked goods and more on Macartan Street on April 21.

It won't be long before the streets of downtown Augusta are full of more residents, thanks to the Watermark condominium project set for construction on the former pension property at Fifth and Reynolds streets. The Watermark not only will add 182 residential units to downtown Augusta but also create 700 jobs and $6 million in tax revenue during the next 10 years.

Another 2006 achievement was the creation of downtown Augusta's new "In Full Swing" logo to reflect a central business district that is authentic, alive and on the move. The branding project involved extensive research and was funded primarily through private donations.

The year ended on a high note. Heritage Academy announced its plans to purchase the Houghton School property at cost from businessman Clay Boardman.

After a successful capital fundraising campaign, the closing took place Dec. 27.

It's amazing to think there could still be more going on in downtown Augusta, but this short recap is just the tip of the iceberg.

Margaret Woodard is the Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority. Business leaders interested in participating in the In Your Words feature can contact Business Editor Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.



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