Commission votes to fund year-long project

Over the past 25 years, the downtown master plan led to the creation of green spaces like Riverwalk and the Augusta Common, says Augusta Tomorrow’s Braye Boardman. But the work isn’t over.

“So much is happening in Augusta right now. We’ve got talk about the Kroc center; we’ve got the third level of the canal; the TEE Center; the new condo project; the Golf Hall of Fame issue,” Boardman listed off future and proposed projects. “We’ve got a lot of things going on and we need to make sure as a community that we’re planning well in advance so we don’t grow haphazardly like so many other communities have done.”

The organization wants to develop a public-private partnership to fund the project, which Boardman estimates will take a year and cost $250,000.

“I brought it up to the finance committee last week and it was unanimously approved there. We talked to each of the commissioners one-on-one just to tell them about master planning and strategic planning for communities,” Boardman said.

Augusta Tomorrow presented their request for $95,000 in funding from the city to the full body on Aug. 7. Andy Cheek moved to approve it, and the proposal passed by a vote of 8-0, with Calvin Holland and Bernard Harper abstaining.

“It’s really going to be a 50-50 deal. Both parties need some skin in the game. There’s so many organizations around that are just asking for a handout,” Boardman said. But Augusta Tomorrow used its previous experience with master planning as a model. The group aims to develop a public-private partnership to work closely with an expert team to target what the taxpayers think is important and identify ways to drive economic development. Boardman sees a lot of potential in green space development, riverfront improvement and water recreation.

“When we talk about the economic engines that drive the community, we talk about the medical community, SRS and Fort Gordon. But I’m a big believer that there’s a fourth one. I would like to see how we can enhance not only the view that we get with the river, but the quality of the river,” he said.

The new master plan will also cover more area than the 25-year-old plan, in which the boundaries that shaped downtown were defined as running from the Savannah River to Laney-Walker Boulevard to 15th Street. The new proposal extends those parameters to include Harrisburg and Olde Town all the way to East Boundary Street.

“We need to do a better job of incorporating surrounding neighborhoods downtown,” Boardman said. An urban center needs a residential core to sustain it. Above all, the organization wants to use intelligent design standards.

“You know, there’s talk about a stadium. The idea of a stadium is very enticing, but we want to do it if it makes sense. We have to do our homework on this,” Boardman said.

No matter what kind of project — a new civic center, a reopened Georgia Golf Hall of Fame or a baseball stadium, he said the community needs to balance the opportunity to be progressive with sustainable initiatives.

“The end product, hopefully, is a good, concise master plan that is a reflection of what the community wants,” Boardman said.


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