As plans move forward for condo developments on Reynolds and Broad streets, one local resident complains that residential living downtown isn’t all its cracked up to be.
“Gentrification’s a beautiful thing, and by no means am I in the top one percent of the financial society or nothing, but for God’s sake, act like a human being,” said Kathy Cooper.
Cooper, who lives above the retail store Blue Magnolia at 1120 Broad St., said that she has experienced what she called “big-city problems” in the relatively small downtown.
Two weeks ago, a man tried to get in the security door with her. Panhandlers hit her up for money regularly. But the thing that irritates her most is noise.
Cooper is among the more than 40 percent of Americans whose homes have noise that they classify as “bothersome,” according to the 2005 American Housing Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. One-third of those say the noise is so bothersome they want to move.
That’s bad news for downtown developers, who are in the process of renovating the old J.B. White’s Building into condos, the old Commerce Building into mixed-use town homes and offices, and a new luxury riverfront condominium development on Reynolds Street.
Augusta’s noise ordinance specifically prohibits the kind of behavior that disturbs Cooper, particularly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. It prohibits yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing in the public streets “so as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons.”
According to Cooper, the noise originates from some of the bars on Broad Street after closing time.
“Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night and last week they included Sunday for me,” she said. “At 3:30 in the morning, somebody’s standing out on the street shrieking. Good for them, I mean, I’m all for it. Have a blast. I go to parties, too, but we don’t stand out front and shriek and scream and throw things.”
Soul Bar owner Coco Rubio wasn’t surprised to hear it. He said he and his employees aren’t above asking patrons to keep it down.
“I’ve seen it happen,” he said. “I swear that all these people get pushed out of the bars and then there is nothing to prevent them from acting like fools. I’ve seen ’em knock over paper racks, trashcans.”
Still, he said that he’s heard few complaints from area residents in the 12 years he’s owned a business downtown. And prior to buying a house, Rubio lived above Sho-Ane’s Design Studio on the 1100 block of Broad Street. He noticed the noise levels when he lived there, and ultimately credits it to a lack of police presence.
“You see more people coming up asking for change than you see police. When you see more of that [police visibility], I think you’ll see less of the other stuff,” he said. “But right now, they bums got ’em, by the numbers.”
Rubio hopes that the new Business Improvement District will help alleviate some of that.
“They’re supposed to use money for extra security, cops on bikes, that kind of stuff,” Rubio said.
The BID expects to raise about $335,000 annually from property owners in the district. A board of directors will decide how to spend the money.