After years in the dark, downtown plans to light up for the holiday season

The Downtown Development Authority hopes to light the nights on Broad Street and Laney Walker Boulevard beginning Dec. 8, if all goes according to the plan for Phase I of a five-phase projection for lighting downtown.

“Part of our mission is to promote downtown, and what better way to promote downtown during the holidays than with great Christmas lights?” said DDA Executive Director Margaret Woodard.

At their Sept. 13 board meeting, Woodard announced that the city ponied up $125,000 to install and power holiday light arrangements. As a result of further donations, the authority was at about the halfway point in raising the remaining $75,000 needed for the streetscape.

Georgia Power and Morris Communications pledged $10,000 each to the fund, and merchants have donated $7,500. The new owners of the J.B. White Building pledged $2,500. Just $45,000 more is needed in private-sector funding to reach the goal of decorating the city’s streets for the holiday season.

“We’re going to meet that goal. I met with the da2 folks and they’re going to do their thing, and I feel very optimistic. Not only are we trying to raise money for the lights, but we’re getting sponsorship for the event as well,” she said. A community holiday celebration is planned for Dec. 8 at the Common.

Woodard said the $200,000 it will cost will go to Syracuse, N.Y.-based Downtown Decorations, which will design the streetscapes. Local electrician Ray Cougar will install the new décor and the city will install the existing ornamentation. Woodard said the company may be the most professional she’s ever worked with. And they were the only one that responded.

The money wraps 326 poles on Broad Street from 5th to 13th streets, in the Common and on the medians, along with all the poles from 5th to 13th on Laney Walker Boulevard. It also includes an animated light display over the Broad Street fountain in front of the Lamar Building and a custom musical James Brown display at his statue.

Future phases will add Greene and Telfair streets and Walton Way, but plans are still tentative due to the size of the district and the proximity to the state line.

“We’d like to talk about a partnership with North Augusta and see what we can do with the bridges,” she said.

In other news, the board announced that Wachovia had provided a $10,000 grant to spark business recruitment to downtown, along with donations from Streeter Printing and Mass Media Marketing. The money will be used to provide Web site redesign for the DDA’s current site, to add four new links.

The revamped Web site will launch in mid-October and will include current projects, strategic planning, quarterly updates and a link to the Saturday Market on Broad. The authority will also add a link to available properties, an inventory of which they recently completed thanks to receiving the same grant last year.

“If anyone has an available property, get in touch with me. We’ll get it on the Web
site,” Woodard said.

It’s part of acting as an information clearinghouse for businesses while growing their current staff and budget. The authority recently submitted their budget request to the consolidated government, and asked for a 19-percent increase.

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