Beautification Edition - 1736 Magazine, Summer 2019


Summer 2019






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T2 Sunday, August 18, 2019

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Tony Bernados


Damon cline


Center for News & Design,

GateHouse Media


725 Broad Street, Augusta, GA 30901




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Some of Augusta's highest-performing schools are in

the downtown area, but so are some of its lowest. Learn

what school officials and community leaders are doing

to improve education in the urban core. | 3

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Augusta banker and amateur photographer Phil Wahl

captured this image of the sun setting over Springfield

Village Park’s “Tower of Aspirations” sculpture during

a recent evening. [PHIL WAHL/SPECIAL] | 5

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A more vibrant downtown awaits — but only if we act


Lead, follow or get out of the


The oft-used phrase – an

adaptation of a quote from

Gen. George S. Patton – is an

admonishment to the inactive, the indeterminate

and the indolent. The type of person

Patton might have called a “speed bump” on

the road to progress, a feckless malcontent

who only serves to “gum up the works” of

the machine.

Patton’s declaration, of course, was made

in the context of liberating Europe during

World War II. The brash, four-star general

couldn’t possibly fathom that, decades

later, his full-speed-ahead doctrine could

be germane to the ongoing struggle to liberate

American cities from abandonment and

decay.”Urban revitalization” wasn’t even

part of the nation’s lexicon. For most of

the 20th century, downtowns were robust,

stable and strong. Cities large and small

could grow and prosper with just a modicum

of leadership and industry. Urban cores

were juggernauts with engines too big and

powerful to stop — no one needed to be told

to “get out of the way.” But that era is over.

The postwar suburbanization boom

proved to be a powerful force in American

life, hollowing out urban cores from coast

to coast during the 1960s and ’70s. Augusta

was not immune.

Now, new generations of Americans are

beginning to “rediscover” downtowns.

They seek out entertainment, culture, history,

architecture and an experience absent

in the suburbs and countryside. Some enjoy

the atmosphere so much they are choosing

to make the urban core their home,

giving rise to the “live-work-play” mantra

espoused by city planners nationwide.

The phenomenon is happening in downtown

Augusta, too. The juggernaut’s engine

is running once again, but not yet firing

on all cylinders. It needs a tune-up and

fuel – lots of fuel – to make it roar like it did

generations ago.

Where are the mechanics?


Do you think downtown Augusta makes a

good first impression?

“No. And, it is important to remember

that our ‘brand’ for what is happening in

the downtown area leaves people a little

confused that are visiting the first time

after hearing about the growth. They

are expecting things to be a little more

polished.” — Sue Parr, president, Augusta

Metro Chamber of Commerce

“No. (There are) upwards of 40 empty

storefronts from on Broad Street from Fifth

to 13th streets. Dress up the empty storefronts.”

– David Penix, broker, David C Penix

& Associates

What is needed to make downtown more

attractive and appealing?

“Cleanliness, safety, good lighting, an additional

parking deck. As rents increase, more

rehabs/developments will occur helping the

vacant space issues. The (Georgia Cyber

Center) buildings are having a good impact

and will improve as they get populated.” –

Clay Boardman, CEO, Flywheel LLC

“Take pride in and take care of what we

already have: Trim trees, rake up leaves,

eradicate weeds growing in sidewalks.

Keep the fountains clean and working.

Make sure trash is picked up. This falls on

the city as well as downtown merchants

and residents.” – Derek May, president,

Azalea Investments LLC

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LEFT: Vacant buildings on the 900 block of

Broad Street show boarded-up facades and

peeling paint. [DAMON CLINE PHOTOS/THE


The position of this magazine, whose

mission is to chart the progress of downtown

Augusta’s revitalization, is that a

minority of plodding property owners and

short-sighted city leaders are throwing

wrenches into the gears through inaction.

Possibly even willful obstruction.

Augusta’s downtown has its leaders and

followers, but it also has many who simply

won’t get out of the way. If there ever was a

time to clear the speed bumps, it is now.

The convergence in recent years of

high-tech military investments, a research

university with a rapidly expanding downtown

campus and a renewed interest in

urban living by young professionals has

created the perfect storm for prosperity in

the city center.

Augusta has reached a pivotal point in

its 283-year history, and the actions of

city officials, business leaders and downtown

stakeholders in the coming years will

determine whether the city’s urban core

continues idling on the brink of vibrancy

or plunges full-throttle into a new era of


Much progress has been made in the city

center in recent years, through hundreds

of millions of dollars worth of public and

private investments. There are new hotels

and corporate offices in the central business

district. New homes are being built in oncedowntrodden

inner-city neighborhoods.

A best-of-class cyber innovation campus

sits perched on the riverfront and, across

the water, a new ballpark is surrounded by

mixed-use developments.

Yet the splendor of those investments –

significant as they are — are diminished by

an equal amount of dilapidated commercial

buildings, outdated infrastructure, poorly

maintained public spaces and massive

vacant lots. Each weakness on its own poses

major challenges to both public and private

sectors. Combined, they are a monumental

problem requiring laser-beam focus from

leaders and a core of dedicated followers

who must – to put it quite bluntly – fight the

blight using every tool at their disposal.

The cause is just. Downtown is everybody’s

neighborhood. It is not only the

city’s heart and soul, it is the personification

of the city itself.

Like it or not, appearances are everything

in a city. The way a city’s downtown looks,

from the surface of its streets and sidewalks

to the rooftops of its tallest buildings, tells

city residents and visitors alike something

about where they are.

It tells them whether it’s a place they

want to be – or flee.

Taken as a whole, what kind of impression

does downtown Augusta make? What

do gutted and boarded-up buildings say

to out-of-town visitors? What do cracked

and dirty sidewalks whisper in the ears of

suburbanites venturing into the city center

for the first time? To those already living,


sidewalks and


grass line

the path to

the Augusta


Center at

the Marriott

complex at

the corner of

James Brown


and Reynolds


working or playing downtown, do weedcovered

vacant lots offer a smile, or a scowl?

This edition of 1736 unflinchingly focuses

on the appearance of Augusta’s urban core –

the good, the bad and the ugly.

This self-assessment is made in the spirit

of civic improvement.

It is made in the hope that community

leaders and public officials become more

resolute in making downtown’s exterior

reflect the vibrant communities growing

in the urban core. It is made to challenge

all downtown stakeholders – public and

private – to make beautification and renovation

of their spaces a greater priority.

It is made to encourage those unwilling

to participate in downtown revitalization to

step aside so that those who can, will.

The status quo is no longer acceptable.

Officials and community leaders don’t

need to wage Patton-esque “war” to battle

downtown blight and stagnation, but the

pursuit of continued success and growth in

the urban core is indeed a fight.

Battle lines have been drawn: Those who

want a more prosperous downtown, and

those who don’t.

If you haven’t figured out whose side

you’re on, you best get out of the way.

What do you see as the biggest barriers

to progress when it comes to downtown’s


“Non-existent public policy. To my knowledge

downtown doesn’t have a champion among

city government-elected officials. What is the

plan for the large vacant buildings? (There

is) so much lost tax revenue. There’s an argument

for a vacant building tax.” – Paul King,

broker, Rex Property & Land

“Parking and simple ‘keep the place clean.’

A public-private partnership can work.

Someone in the city has to be given the

authority to do a deal. The private sector is

not going to do all the work and have the

commission simply do nothing.” – Doug

Cates, partner, Cherry Bekaert; member-atlarge,

Augusta Tomorrow

Do you think downtown Augusta will look

better, worse or the same a decade from now?

“I think it will get better. I think the families

that have been hoarding properties will

move on them as prices rise, and rising

rents will make projects feasible that

weren’t just a few years ago.” – Jonathan

Aceves, commercial and land advisor,

Presley Realty

“The downtown appearance changes

daily for the better. There are so many

buildings that are being renovated and

properties being cleaned up. The city’s

entities are working together to keep us

clean and safe.” – Janie Peel, broker, Prime

Commercial Properties | 7

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Executive Director, Augusta

Downtown Development Authority

Over the past couple

of years, I have heard

downtown Augusta

referred to as the “living

room” of the community

– and it makes sense.

In houses, living rooms are the focal points

for guests and are usually what creates their

first impressions of our homes. Prospective

companies and developers often visit a city’s

downtown to check out the heartbeat of the

city prior to a more detailed site-selection visit.

Urban cores are typically a city's largest

employment zone and comprise the largest

segment of its tax base. More important, downtowns

are what visitors and potential investors

use to judge the health of a community.

How does our “living room” rate today in

regards to beautification?

Beautification is defined as the process of

making visual improvements to a person, place

or thing. While the city of Augusta provides

baseline services such as trash collection, street

sweeping and maintenance of city right-ofway,

what are we doing to keep downtown

visually appealing over and above these basic

city services?

Augusta Tomorrow’s Beautification

Committee has done a good job peeling back

the onion. Several years ago city of Augusta

departments were re-aligned so that cleaning

and beautification duties now are the responsibility

of three different departments.

Augusta Tomorrow meets with these

departments on a regular basis and the

improvements include more frequent cleanings

of downtown sidewalks, improvements to our

medians and heartier plantings that last longer

and beautify our downtown streets.

Downtown Augusta is lucky to have civicminded

groups that volunteer to keep our city

center cleaner. Operation Clean City is a volunteer

group that cleans Broad Street on Sunday

mornings. Keep Augusta Beautiful provides

supplies to volunteer groups like Operation

Clean City that want to cleanup littered property,

streets and parks. Currently Keep Augusta

Beautiful is completing the second Community

Appearance Index to highlight areas that need

special attention from our city departments.

On April 27, City Serve Augusta made a huge

impact with over 1,500 volunteers picking up 14

tons of trash. Downtown projects included the

15th Street corridor, 14th Street and Harrisburg

Clean and Green, where hundreds of volunteers

picked up trash and tires, cleaned sidewalks

and mowed vacant lots.

Downtown Augusta is also lucky to have a

group of civic-minded property and business

owners. You can hear the sounds of blowers

and sweepers in the early morning hours as

businesses clean their “living rooms” for our

visitors. A group of property owners on the 900

block of Broad Street contribute cash to keep

their block clean and beautified.

The challenge is the lack of consistency and

a dedicated funding source for beautification

efforts in our urban core. The Business

Improvement District established in March

2008 had a tremendous impact on Downtown

Augusta because it provided a dedicated funding

source for beautification. Over 200 private

property owners agreed to levy themselves

an additional tax to fund the Clean Augusta

Downtown Initiative, known as CADI.

Approximately $350,000 was raised on

an annual basis and in the first year the CADI

employees removed over 31 tons of trash and

debris, steam cleaned and weeded sidewalks,

removed graffiti from public property and

reported broken infrastructure to the city

on an ongoing basis. What was once seen as

Margaret Woodard [FILE/


a rundown city center became a clean and

vibrant hub of activity and instilled a sense of

community pride.

The program was in place for 5 years until

2013, when it failed to muster the votes needed

from the Augusta Commission to continue.

The recently completed Destination Blueprint

by the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau

noted the “lack of funding for downtown.

While there are a variety of entities that work

to enhance conditions in downtown including

maintenance, in many cases these entities

operate with very limited funds, negatively

impacting their ability to create a significant

and positive impact on the visitor appeal.”

The report lists enhancing beautification and

cleanliness in Downtown Augusta as one of

six initiatives to work on in the next five years.

We look forward to continued collaboration

with the Augusta CVB, Augusta Tomorrow and

downtown stakeholders to find a consistent

solution with a dedicated funding source for

downtown beautification.

Now, more than ever, we need to step up

our beautification game. Downtown Augusta

is experiencing a rebirth like no other with our

cyber brand and $300 million in new investment

either completed or on the drawing

boards for the Broad Street corridor.

Our “living room” not only needs to be clean

and beautiful. It needs to consistently outshine

others in the region in order to have a competitive

edge in attracting new investment and

national cyber related industry to Augusta. | 9

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Willing investors face

multiple challenges,

resistance in breathing

new life into old buildings



ABOVE: The 972 Broad building in September 2017,

before Loop Recruiting and Milestone Construction

started renovations. [FILE/THE AUGUSTA


LEFT: John Barksdale (from left), Donald King,

Jason Kennedy, Charlie Wall and Miles Dunston

stand in front of the new Loop Recruiting and

Milestone Construction offices on Broad Street



The building at 972 Broad St. has

stood out in downtown Augusta

for more than a century – but

not always in a good way.

Its prominent feature, a

four-story facade, is an architectural flourish

commissioned by its original owner, the E.M.

Andrews Furniture Co., to make the building

downtown’s “tallest store.”

Although the building would eventually

lose that distinction to downtown’s newer

department stores – J.B. White, J.C. Penney,

Cullum’s, Davison’s and H.L. Green – it continued

to cut a striking figure in the central

business district for decades.

Then the shopping malls came to town;

nearly every traditional retailer on downtown’s

main street closed or relocated to new

space in the suburbs.

By 1979, 972 Broad’s final retail tenant –

the Cohen family’s Bee Hive children’s

clothing store – was gone, too.

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Loop Recruiting co-owners Jason Kennedy (left) and Charlie Wall look out the window of 972 Broad St. during renovations in 2018.


Then the building sat. And sat. And sat.

The mothballed property changed hands several

times over the decades – once for as little as

$7,000 – but none of its owners “did anything”

with the building. Sheet metal was tacked over

its windows and its terrazzo-tile entryway was

shrouded in plywood for nearly 30 years.

Nothing changed until 2017, when the

young owners of Loop Recruiting decided

they wanted to move their niche personnel

firm downtown to be closer to their high-tech

clients in the central business district.

The firm’s co-founders, Charlie Wall and

Jason Kennedy, talked their friend Miles

Dunstan, a partner in Milestone Construction,

a general contractor, into forming a limited

liability company to purchase the long-vacant

landmark and turn it into office space to house

their growing businesses.

Offering the owner $300,000 – more than

double what was paid for the deteriorating

building a decade earlier – should have been a

cakewalk. But it wasn’t.

“We had a hard time,” Kennedy acknowledges.

“Charlie and Miles had to sweet-talk

the guy into selling the building.”

The reluctance of owners to part with

vacant and mothballed properties is a phenomenon

not unique to downtown Augusta.

Willing and able investors encountering

resistance from entrenched and unmotivated

owners of vacant urban buildings is common

across America, said Ed McMahon, a senior

fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

“I’ve seen it everywhere,” McMahon said.

“When towns start to come back to life,

there are always some owners who have very

unrealistic expectations for what they can get

(for their properties). So they just sit on them

and let them deteriorate.”

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Joe Edge



Lower Broad Street’s strip clubs

have made it the seedy side of

downtown for decades. But the

closure of several clubs in recent

years is helping the east end

shake its tawdry reputation.

So when real estate broker Joe Edge

found out the Augusta Commission was

poised to extend the life of the last two

remaining topless bars, he sprung into


“Everybody I talked to seemed to be

100% against those clubs staying open,”

said Edge, the owner of Sherman &

Hemstreet Real Estate Company. “We got

on the agenda immediately so somebody

could stand up in opposition. I was the

person to do that.”

The family of James “Whitey” Lester,

owner of Discotheque Lounge and The

Joker Club-Vegas Showgirls, petitioned

the city to allow his adult entertainment

licenses to pass to his children. Lester,

who died in April, was the last remaining

holder of a grandfathered permit

allowing alcohol and nude dancing in a

business zone.

Although the permits are non-transferable,

the Lester family’s request for an

exemption made it through subcommittees

and ended up before the full commission in

February. Edge, whose office is two blocks

away from the strip clubs, rallied support

from downtown stakeholders and spoke

out during the meeting.

When it came time for a vote, commissioners

rejected the extension.

“The public outcry was so drastic that

they decided to vote unanimously,” Edge

said. “Otherwise, it would have gotten

shoveled though and nobody would have

ever known about it until it was already


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The boarded up J.C. Penney building on Broad Street, at 83,000 square feet, is one of downtown Augusta’s largest vacant buildings.


Many of these owners, McMahon said,

lack the vision or the finances – or both – to

renovate their properties into habitable rental

space for commercial or residential tenants.

And when presented with fair-market offers

from interested buyers, they often scoff.

“There’s this notion that they’re just waiting

for some ship to come in,” McMahon said.

“More often, the reality is that the ship is

never coming, and they just have this completely

unrealistic set of expectations.”

Owners holding out for fantasy offers creates

long-term eyesores that depress property

values, discourage new investment and create

an atmosphere of melancholy in areas that

should otherwise be bustling with vibrancy, said

McMahon, who has authored 15 books on sustainable

development and historic preservation.

Wall said he considers himself fortunate

he was able to strike a deal for the building,

which puts his firm closer to major tech clients,

such as Unisys and TaxSlayer.

He said he’s encouraged to see more downtown

properties come on the market in recent

months, but he believes many are overvalued.

“There are more things for sale, but there

are still some astronomical prices,” Wall

said. “It will stunt the growth of downtown if

nobody sells.”


Urban planners say a city’s appearance is

impacted by several things: the condition of

its public infrastructure, the cleanliness of its

sidewalks and greenspaces and the general

demeanor of those found on its streets.

But the condition of its buildings has an

outsized effect on how the city is perceived by

both residents and visitors.

“Vacant and abandoned properties are

among the most visible outward signs of a

community’s reversing fortunes,” according to

a 2014 policy report by the U.S. Department of

Housing and Urban Development.

Downtown Augusta – a registered historic

district with a multitude of architecturally

significant properties – is roughly 20 percent

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2 Rick Keuroglian


Rick Keuroglian doesn’t scare


The Olde Town neighborhood

activist grew up in Bladensburg,

Md., a Washington, D.C., inner

suburb that had the dubious distinction

of being one of America’s most dangerous

ZIP codes.

He’s also a devout Christian; one who

walks calmly with God “through the valley

of the shadow of death” as described in

Psalm 23:4.

And if street smarts and spirituality

aren’t enough, the unassuming

46-year-old State Farm Insurance agent

holds a concealed-weapons permit.

Keuroglian has relied on all three tools

at one time or another to help liberate his

historic neighborhood from blight and

criminals during the past decade.

“When I first moved here there was

open-air drug dealing – they were selling

it right in front of you,” Keuroglian said.

“People were oppressed – they lived in fear

that if they reported a crime, they would

be retaliated against.”

Keuroglian, the founder of City Hope

Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of urban

neighborhoods, has arguably done more

than any individual in Olde Town to help

turn the tide against the drug dealers, gang

members and pimps who ran roughshod

over the east Augusta neighborhood for


His strategy was quite simple: Get

neighbors to be neighborly.

“It all starts with building relationships,”

said Keuroglian, who served two

terms as his neighborhood association’s

president. “When you get to know each

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Augusta businesswoman Bonnie Ruben has contracted with the Jordan

Trotter Commercial Real Estate firm to market her vacant downtown

buildings, starting with the 83,000-square-foot J.C. Penney building.


vacant, according to a recent study by the Augusta Downtown

Development Authority. The vast majority of that space is

mothballed and not considered “move-in ready” for prospective

tenants or buyers.

Many cities across America are struggling with blighted

downtown properties. Generally, as long as the owner pays their

property taxes, keeps the building secure and ensures the structure

poses no public safety hazard, property owners are able

to “sit” on vacant buildings as long as they like. McMahon said

some city leaders use their “bully pulpit” to persuade owners

to get off the dime and do something about their blemished


“It’s kind of like public shaming,” McMahon said. “Good

mayors and good public officials are good at doing that.”

McMahon said Joe Riley, the longtime mayor of Charleston,

S.C., would often talk one on one with derelict property owners.

“He used to take these men and women out to lunch or breakfast

and basically have a heart-to-heart with them,” he said.

“Sometimes it takes somebody who has lived in the community a

long time to get through to people.”

Most city “nuisance ordinances” are generally geared toward

residential properties; few include the power to compel commercial

property owners to rehabilitate their properties.

However, McMahon said, more cities are pushing owners to

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3 Kim Hines


Kim Hines is helping the

“Garden City” live up to its

nickname, particularly in one

of the city’s least-gardened

neighborhoods – Harrisburg.

The executive director of Augusta

Locally Grown, a nonprofit promoting

organic farming and sustainable agriculture,

is helping feed and unite residents in

the predominantly low-income neighborhood

by teaching them to grow their own


“It’s community revitalization using

food as the tool,” Hines said.

The historic neighborhood west of

downtown primarily housed workingclass

families until the city’s textile

industry went into decline more than two

decades ago. The fabric of the community

began to fray as longtime residents began

to die off or move away, leaving behind

derelict homes, rental properties and littered

vacant lots.

Augusta Locally Grown, which was

founded in 2008, began making inroads

into the community in 2011 after Hines

received a call from St. Luke United

Methodist Church, one of Harrisburg’s

more civically active congregations.

“They said, ‘Can you make the same

clean food available for our families who

are struggling to make it on a more limited

income?’ “ Hines recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t

know, but I’d really like to try.’”

The result was a cluster of multi-partner

programs called GROW Harrisburg, short

for “Growing ouR Own Wellness.” One

of the group’s first alliances was with the

Icebox Urban Farm, a garden spanning

three city lots that was started by a local

couple on Fenwick Street to teach families

about sustainable food production.

Today, with grant funding assistance from

the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance

Program Education, or “SNAP-Ed,” the

urban garden now has a greenhouse, a

teaching kitchen and classroom and event


Hines’ organization manages the teaching

garden for children at Harrisburg’s

Westabou Montessori School, as well as

nutrition-outreach efforts at the Olmstead

Homes public housing complex. Augusta

Locally Grown also offers a plant-based

cooking class at St. Luke and teaches

individuals to install and tend to backyard


“The whole purpose is teaching each

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put their properties to productive use through vacant

property registration fees and higher property taxes on

vacant buildings.

Some downtown Augusta business owners, such as

Paul King, owner of Rex Property & Land and former

chairman of the Downtown Development Authority,

have become frustrated by vacancies caused by obstinate

owners seeking above-market rates for deteriorated


“Bring on the vacant building tax,” he said. “I’m ready

to try anything.”

Augusta’s city government has historically taken a

laissez-faire stance on chronically vacant buildings.

Downtown stakeholders say the strategy was understandable

when commercial interest in the central

business district hit rock bottom during the 1980s and

early 1990s. Today, city officials appear to be doubling

down on the hands-off strategy as business leaders are

ebullient that Fort Gordon’s expanding cyber- and military-intelligence

missions will lure defense companies,

tech firms and hordes of young professionals downtown.

If the predictions hold true, heavy-handed enforcement

and new regulations shouldn’t be necessary to

motivate property owners to sell or renovate their


“I think the market is going to take care of itself,”

Augusta Planning and Development Director Rob

Sherman said.

He may very well be correct.


One of the largest vacant-property owners in the

central business district is Augusta businesswoman

Bonnie Ruben, the proprietor of downtown’s Ruben’s

Department Store and Ramada hotel.

Ruben has recently contracted with the Jordan Trotter

Commercial Real Estate, one of city’s largest property

marketing companies and the firm responsible for

bringing Unisys Corp’s massive operations center to the

downtown’s Discovery Plaza riverfront space. The firm

is actively marketing Ruben’s empty buildings, which

include 904-920 Broad St. and the former Kress and J.C.

Penney department stores, located on the 800 and 700

blocks, respectively.

Her buildings have been vacant for years – decades in

the case of the department store buildings.

The one-time mayoral candidate, who began acquiring

the buildings after the opening of Augusta’s malls sucked

traditional retail out of the central business district, has

earned a reputation for lackluster building maintenance

and refusing offers to sell.

The city planning and development department,

under a previous director, brought a case against her in

Richmond County Magistrate Court in 2014 over the

structural conditions of the Penney building and 904

Broad, a building gutted by fire in 2001.

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4 Brian Martin


Brian Martin is a dentist. His wife,

Chelsea, is an internal medicine

physician. They have a nice

new house with a big backyard

for their four children and the

family dog.

Few would consider the young couple

anything but ordinary until they find

out where they live: Laney-Walker/


And while some might consider it odd

for two upwardly mobile young professionals

to call one of Augusta’s most

economically depressed urban areas home,

the Martins wouldn’t have it any other


“We love our neighborhood, we really

do,” Brian Martin said. “This isn’t like

we’ve had to sacrifice a lot to live there.

For downtown, we have a huge backyard.

We have a nice big lawn. We have parking.

We have all the things that once would

have prevented me from considering living


How two suburban Atlanta natives

ended up living in a historically black

neighborhood in Augusta’s urban core is

somewhat complicated. But the simple

answer is they believe in doing what they

can to prepare their neighborhood for the

“kingdom come” – the final manifestation

of God’s reign.

And they are doing it simply by being

good neighbors.

“We didn’t have to get a megaphone

and start shouting out our creed for why

we live there,” he said. “We just want to

do our own thing. We just want to live our

lives like everyone else.”

The couple lived in two west Augusta

neighborhoods before deciding to buy a

home on Pine Street, part of the Heritage

Pine neighborhood the city’s Housing

and Community Development department

began developing in 2011 as part

of a special sales tax-funded program to

repopulate the blighted area with new


The Martins purchased their home at

the corner of Pine and Florence streets in

2014, right next door to friends and fellow

First Presbyterian Church parishioners

Karen and Russ Ayers, the latter of whom

practices family medicine with Chelsea at

Christ Community Health, a faith-based

MARTIN continues on 69 | 19

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The statue of Augusta founder James Oglethorpe faces a row of dilapidated and vacant buildings on Broad Street at the south end of the Augusta Common.


Two years ago she turned down the Augusta

Convention & Visitors Bureau’s offer to

purchase the Kress building, which the organization

wanted to turn into its new office

and visitor center (the marketing organization

ended up purchasing 1010 Broad St. instead).

The hollowed out Kress building, which faces

the south end of the Augusta Common and

James Brown Statue, is considered one of

downtown’s most visible eyesores.

Earlier this year, she turned away a regional

sporting goods and apparel chain who was

interested in moving its west Augusta store to

downtown, according to Jonathan Aceves, a

commercial sales and leasing agent with Presley


Aceves said she made him wait five consecutive

afternoons in the Ramada lobby before she

would speak with him. When she did, he said,

she asked the chain to make an offer for the

property sight-unseen.

“My response was basically, ‘well can I get

in there and get some pictures or get a floor

plan? Do you have something on the building

that I can put in front of them?’” he said. “The

answer I got was ‘no.’ So the company basically

just renewed their lease and stayed where they


Aceves said contracting with a professional

real estate firm may be a sign Ruben is serious

about entertaining offers to sell, lease or codevelop

her properties.

Ruben declined a request to be interviewed

for this story. She said in a statement

issued through Jordan Trotter that she and

the company are focusing their efforts on the

VIBRANT continues on 22

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5 Rob Wynn



As a professional financial advisor,

Rob Wynn isn’t one to let

low-risk/high-return opportunities

slip by.

Which is why the founder

of Wynn Capital couldn’t sit idle as

the median on the 900 block of Broad

Street – a major pedestrian crossroads

that features the “Welcome to Downtown

Augusta” sign – slowly descend into


Rather than rely on city workers to

occasionally trim hedges, mow grass,

pull weeds and fix dislodged brick

pavers, Wynn and a handful of neighboring

business owners stepped forward to

take responsibility for weekly median


Wynn considers “adopting” public

greenspace a high-yield investment in the

city center.

“In my view, the core of our local

economy in the future will likely be

downtown,” Wynn said. “A lot of what

will drive the economy is people coming

downtown. If they haven’t been down here

in a long time, they need to see that it looks

nice, and if it looks nice, they’re more

likely to come back.”

Wynn started thinking about improving

the space shortly after opening his investment

firm in late 2015. Inspired by Augusta

businessman Barry Storey’s adoption of

medians along major city gateways, Wynn

began exploring the idea of hiring a private

landscaping firm to maintain the 900

block median shortly after purchasing his

965 Broad St. building in 2017.

But the plan languished in bureaucratic

red tape until the city’s Environmental

Services Department established the

Keep Augusta Beautiful initiative in 2018,

which streamlined the adoption process

and negated the need to petition Augusta

commissioners for permission to maintain

public property.

By December 2018, Wynn and fellow

downtown property owner Paul King

seeded a maintenance program with

WYNN continues on 69 | 21

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The long-vacant Woolworth’s store sits boarded up at the corner of Broad and Eighth streets. [DAMON CLINE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

83,000-square-foot Penney building, the

largest of her vacant properties.

“I realize the significance some of my

buildings have on the landscape of downtown,”

Ruben said in the statement. “We are

going to start with the J.C. Penney Building

and find the right fit. I appreciate the history

of Broad Street and want to put life back into

our downtown. I trust the team at Jordan

Trotter Commercial Real Estate and know

with their hard work and knowledge of the

business and far-reaching client base that

they will find the right tenant.”

Marketing of the property is being headed up

by Jordan Trotter agents Parker Dye and Holton

Brinson. The two plan to focus on investors

well-versed in federal opportunity zone and

historic preservation tax credits, which would

be necessary to make the building’s renovation

and occupancy financially feasible.

Dye said uses for the building run the

gamut. Offices, apartments, condos, a boutique

hotel — everything is on the table.

“We’re not specifically going after multifamily

developers and we can’t just target

cyber and defense contractors. It can be 25

different things,” he said. “Obviously, I think

a retail ground floor with residential above is

VIBRANT continues on 24

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Rick Hauser was looking for a

small town in upstate New

York, between Buffalo and

Rochester, to set up his architecture

firm. The village of

Perry seemed to fit the bill for the Cornell

University graduate.

Its main street, though half-vacant,

was charming. The president of In.Site:

Architecture set about finding a place to

lease, but he encountered only disinterested

property owners.

“He would go to one building and the

owner would say, ‘No, I can’t do that

because I’d have to fix my roof.’ He’d go

to the next person and they’d say, “No,

I’d have to rewire the building,’ " said Ed

McMahon, a fellow at the Urban Land

Institute, which uses Hauser’s story

as something of a case study. “These

were people who did not understand the

difference between ‘spending’ and making

an ‘investment.’ "

Hauser then tried to get a bank loan to

purchase a building, but lenders turned

him down, citing downtown’s high

vacancy rate. So in 2005, Hauser decided

to finance a purchase himself.

He formed a partnership called Main

Street LLC. He sold shares in the venture

to friends, family and even construction

contractors, who offered in-kind services,

such as plumbing, drywall and electrical


His group of three-dozen investors

bought a two-story, 10,000-square-foot

building on the town’s main street and

renovated it into space for his office and

other commercial tenants on the ground

floor. Hauser converted the 124-year-old

building’s top floor into loft apartments –

something the 3,500-person village had

Perry, N.Y.-resident Rick Hauser converted

this 124-year-old building’s top floor into loft

apartments – something the 3,500-person

village had never seen before.


never seen before.

“They practically leased up overnight,”

McMahon said.

Hauser’s Main Street partnership has

since acquired eight more buildings. And

he’s now the town’s mayor.

“It goes to show there is a market for

downtown living and working in every

small community in America,” McMahon

said. | 23

0818_T_23_AM____.indd 23

7/29/2019 4:18:30 PM

I realize the significance some of my buildings have on the landscape of

downtown. We are going to start with the J.C. Penney Building and find the

right fit. I appreciate the history of Broad Street and want to put life back

into our downtown. I trust the team at Jordan Trotter Commercial Real

Estate and know with their hard work and knowledge of the business and

far-reaching client base that they will find the right tenant.


Augusta businesswoman

at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts these


The company said pressure washing and

minor facade work are planned to make the

property more presentable to potential users.

Though the firm is early in the marketing

process, it believes the end user will likely end

up being a tenant seeking unique space in a

historic setting.

“I think the next buyer will be creative themselves,”

Brinson said.


Ruben is perhaps the most visible owner of

derelict downtown buildings, but there are

many others with vacant buildings in various

states of deterioration.

Sherman’s department, which includes the

city’s code enforcement division, says aggressive

enforcement throughout the entire central

business district isn’t feasible under current

budgetary constraints.

Even buildings unfit for occupancy and structurally

compromised could strain the city’s

financial resources, said Sherman, citing last

year’s demolition of the crumbling Greene’s

restaurant building at 400 East Boundary,

which cost the city $158,000.

“We can take it all the way through to the

demolition process,” Sherman said. “We can

say to the owner, ‘You have to fix it or demolish

it.’ The owner says, ‘We don’t have the money

to demolish it.’ Well, we don’t either. We have

several million dollars worth of properties that

need to be demolished.”

City Code Enforcement Manager Terrence

Wynder, whose office was approved to hire

more code enforcement officers in July,

said two of the officers will be dedicated to


“Within the next six months you’re going to

see a push in the downtown area,” Wynder said.

Rather than going through the labor-intensive

process of citations and legal actions, Rick

Keuroglian said owners of vacant and dilapidated

properties could be incentivized through

punitive property taxes.

The Downtown Development Authority

board member advocates for a vacant building

tax, similar to those adopted by cities such

as Sacramento, Calif., Dallas, St. Paul, Minn.,

Chicago and Philadelphia.

The idea, which was the subject of a term

paper he wrote while working on his master’s

degree in public administration at Augusta

University, is designed to make it too expensive

for people to hold onto chronically empty or

blighted properties.

His paper proposed the creation of a “vacant

building registry” and a progressive three-tier

property tax regimen.

Owners of occupied properties with no

code violations would pay 85 cents per $100 of

24 |

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appraised value; owners of vacant properties

would pay $5 per $100; and owners of vacant

and dilapidated properties would be taxed at $10

for every $100 in assessed value.

“If you have a vacant property and you’re

paying five times the rates, you had better do

something with it,” Keuroglian said. “If not, then

you’ll sell it to someone who will do something

with it. If you have a dilapidated property, there is

no incentive to hold onto that.”

Keuroglian, who also is an Olde Town neighborhood

activist and State Farm Insurance

agent downtown, said his inspiration for writing

the paper was a “Downtown Summit” organized

by revitalization group Augusta Tomorrow and

a HUD study forecasting demand for 2,200 new

residential units in downtown Augusta because

of growth at Fort Gordon.

According to Downtown Development

Authority surveys, downtown apartments hover

in the 95% occupancy range.

“Vacant buildings need to be converted to loft

(apartments) and retail mixed-use,” he said.

HUD’s 2014 policy report appears to support

Keuroglian’s thesis: “It is almost always better,

when possible, for the public sector to motivate

private owners to reuse vacant properties

than for the public sector to intervene directly

by acquiring and then trying to dispose of the


Augusta Tomorrow member Doug Cates, a

partner in the Augusta office of accounting firm

Cherry Bekaert, said increased development of

market-rate residential downtown is the best

antidote to vacant storefronts.

Residential growth will spur demand for

service businesses and increase the city’s tax

base, as it has in nearby Columbia, S.C., whose

downtown has nearly 20 times the number of

market-rate units.

“If we get more people living downtown, a lot

of these issues will be easier to deal with,” Cates


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7/29/2019 4:13:16 PM


The J.C. Penney Building

One of downtown's largest vacant

structures is a prime candidate

for redevelopment with a storied


What most longtime locals

know as the former J.C. Penney building at

732 Broad St. began its life as The Albion

Hotel, built in 1900 by William F. Denney.

The elegant u-shaped building had retail

stores on the ground level, including a bar,

cigar stand and barber shop, to accommodate

the hustle and bustle of shoppers and visitors

in horse-drawn carriages.

Tragically, a fire in 1921 destroyed the right

side and center portion, gutting the building

through to Ellis Street. The damaged portions

of the building were never rebuilt and a oneblock

street, Albion Avenue, was laid out as a

fire break when the block was rebuilt.

The west end of the property was rebuilt in

1923 as the eight-story Richmond Hotel while

the Albion was repaired. J.C. Penney began

leasing the 83,000-square-foot Albion property

in 1958, and it remained a department

store until 1987 when the retailer relocated to

Augusta Mall.

The Albion/J.C. Penney property has

been vacant since. The Richmond Hotel was

converted in 1979 into a 125-unit subsidizedhousing

apartment complex, now known

as the Richmond Summit. It is owned by

a Valdosta, Ga.-based investment group.

Albion Avenue is currently closed to vehicle


The J.C Penney building, owned by Augusta

businesswoman Bonnie Ruben, is currently

being marketed by the Jordan Trotter

Commercial Real Estate firm.

The building is currently in an opportunity

zone, which makes it eligible for tax benefits

to investors. It also is listed in the National

Register of Historic Places and is eligible for

various grant funds and tax incentives.

TOP: This 1906

photo shows

the front of the

Albion Hotel on

the 700 block of

Broad Street. All

that remains of

the complex now

is the former

J.C. Penney

building and the

Richmond Summit


LEFT: A historic

image shows the

destruction of

the Albion Hotel

in 1923. The

remainder of the

building would

become what is

now the old J.C.

Penney building.


Sources: Yesterday's Augusta, A.

Ray Rowland and Helen Callahan; An

Augusta Scrapbook (Twentieth-Century

Memories), Vicki H. Greene, Scott

W. Loehr and Erick D. Montgomery,

Introduction by Dr. Edward Cashin;

Images of America-Augusta, A Postcard

History, Joseph M. Lee III; Historic

Augusta; Augusta Chronicle archives | 27

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7/29/2019 4:18:47 PM



Renovating old buildings is a costly


Aside from acquiring the real estate,

developers must bring the structure up to

modern building codes and safety standards.

Commercial real estate sources say

converting the vacant Lamar Building and

the gutted Marion Building into residential

space would require the installation

of $1 million worth of fire escapes and

sprinkler systems alone.

That cost exceeds the market value of

either building – the Lamar was purchased

out of a bank foreclosure by a

South Carolina investor in 2016 for

$820,000; the Marion was acquired in

2010 for $200,000 by a limited liability

company headed by Augusta businessmen

Clay Boardman and Barry Storey.

Even with tax breaks such as Georgia’s

25% historic tax credit program and

the 20% federal program, which was

weakened by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs

Act legislation, Augusta’s historically

low rental rates makes banks skittish of

financing large rehabilitation projects.

“As rents increase, there will be more

investment, more vitality and more

variety downtown,” Boardman said.

With the exception of a few smaller

loft apartment projects by developers

such as Bryan Haltermann of Haltermann

Partners and Mark Donahue of Peach

Contractors, most new redevelopment of

downtown buildings has been by “enduser”

tenants such as Loop Recruiting

and software developer TaxSlayer,

the latter of which turned the former

YMCA building into its headquarters and

“Innovation & Technology Campus” earlier

this year at a cost of $10 million.

Loop Recruiting and Milestone

Construction has put more than $1 million

into its building renovation. Wall

said the cost would have been higher had

the building’s previous owner not already

Downtown Augusta’s two largest vacant

high-rise buildings, the Lamar Building

(foreground) and the Marion Building.


performed substantial demolition work

and his development partner not been a

general contractor.

Although Wall believes property

owners may be overspeculating the

demand from tech- and cyber-related

industries spurred by the state’s $100

million Georgia Cyber Center complex

along the riverfront, he said there are

still plenty of opportunities for smaller

companies such as his to plant a flag


“In Augusta, you can still afford to own

here, whereas most places you can’t,” he


On large-scale developments, such

as the $94 million Riverfront at the

Depot mixed-use project, public-private

partnerships are needed to make the

risk-reward ratio work through incentives.

In the case of the Depot project,

the city is issuing a $14 million bond for

a parking deck, some of which will be

dedicated to the nearby Unisys office

per a previous commitment by industrial

recruiters to provide its employees 500

parking spaces.

A public-private partnership would

also likely be required for the development

of vacant land at the north end

of the Augusta Common, which would

link downtown’s central park to the


The majority owner of the vacant space,

Augusta-based Morris Communications,

envisions a riverfront development featuring

a variety of mixed-use buildings that

could house restaurants, retail and up to

400 apartment units.

The proposal also calls for a 1-acre

tract across the street from the city

convention center, once slated for a

third Marriott-branded hotel, would

become a 90-unit apartment building.

Bob Kuhar, Morris Communications’ vice

president of properties and facilities, said

the project would require some level of

city participation, given the amount of

public infrastructure needed to support

the public greenspace the company

would deed to the city. Informal meetings

with city officials have so far yielded no


As for turning existing properties

into productive use, McMahon said he

has seen previously stubborn property

owners become more willing to engage in

realistic negotiations once they see the

rest of the community begin to pass them


“Nothing succeeds like success,” he

said. “As redevelopment and revitalization

get rolling, people realize they don’t

want to get left behind.”

However, McMahon acknowledges that

some property owners will remain intractable

no matter how much a downtown


“There are some people you can’t

work with, and just don’t care,” he said.

“Sometimes, you just have to wait until

the old timers die or move.”

28 |

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0818_T_29_AM____.indd 29

7/29/2019 4:19:22 PM

16 Properties

1. Martha Lester School

1688 Broad St.


Martha Lester LLC

Status: Vacant

Potential: Private school,

neighborhood center

nonprofit offices



7. 905 Broad St.

905 Broad St.

Owner: Donna Allen

Status: Vacant, deteriorating

Potential: Mixed-use commercial

and retail

2. MCG Foundation property

Corner of 15th Street and John

C. Calhoun Expressway

Owner: MCG Foundation

Status: Mostly vacant land

Potential: Mixed-use

multi-family, commercial

and retail

8. 860 Reynolds Street

Corner of Reynolds and 9th


Owner: Old Jail Property LLC

Status: Vacant land

Potential: Market-rate apartments

or hotel with ground

floor commercial space


Broad St.


3. The Carpet Shop building

210 Georgia Ave., North


Owner: North Augusta


Status: Vacant


Mixed-use commercial

9. Kress Building

834 Broad St.

Owner: Bonnie Ruben

Status: Vacant, dilapidated

Potential: Mixed-use retail and



4. Penny Savings Bank

865 Laney Walker Boulevard

Owner: Augusta Land Bank


Status: Vacant


Office or retail

10. Old First Baptist Church

802 Greene St.

Owner: LLC

Status: Vacant, deteriorating


Mixed-use commercial office

space, meeting venue, residential

5. Former Southern Bell


937 Ellis St.

Owner: Michael Harrison

Status: Vacant, deteriorating

Potential: Commercial and

loft apartments

6. 904-908 Broad St.

904-908 Broad St.

Owner: Bonnie Ruben

Status: Partly vacant,

partially demolished

Potential: Mixed-use

commercial or office

30 |

11. Woolworth Department Store

802 Broad St.

Owner: 802 Broad Street

Augusta LLC

Status: Vacant, dilapidated

Potential: Restaurant or

retail on ground floor, loft

apartments upstairs

12. Richmond Summit

744 Broad St.

Owner: Ashton Richmond LP

Status: Occupied, 125 subsidized

one-bedroom apartments

Potential: Market-rate apartments

with ground floor

commercial space

13. 13 Eighth St.

Eighth Street and


Owner: Morris Communications

Status: Vacant land

Potential: Mixed-use

retail, residential and

office space

14. Lamar Building

753 Broad St.

Owner: Park Meridian

Holdings of Augusta


Status: Vacant

Potential: Mixed use

residential and office

0818_T_30_AM____.indd 30

8/1/2019 12:36:51 PM



Village Park



Bluff Ave.

Buena Vista Ave.

Clifton Ave.


Riverside Blvd.

10th St.

Jones St.



James Brown Blvd.


200 feet

ad St.

Pailroad Ave.


Savannah River


Shoreline Dr.


River Golf


Campbell St.




8th St.





Ellis St.

Broad St.

Reynolds St.

7th St.



200 feet



Greene St.



10th St.

9th St.

Reynolds St.


Savannah River Scenic Hwy.

13th St.©HERE

12th St.

11th St.


Broad St.

6th St.

5th St.





Bay St.

Telfair St.

Walker St.

Broad St.


Greene St. Greene St.

Reynolds St.

Ra Dent Blvd

Fenwick St.

Walton Way St.


Dugas St.

Laney Walker Blvd.

Watkins St.

Jefferson Davis Memorial Hwy

Houston St.

400 feet



15. J.C. Penney Building

732 Broad St.

Owner: Bonnie Ruben


Vacant, deteriorating


Mixed-use retail, residential

and office space

16. Marion Building

739 Broad St.


Marion Partners LLC


Vacant, dilapidated


Residential or office | 31

0818_T_30_AM____.indd 31

8/1/2019 12:37:04 PM

Operation Clean City founder Glen Ford picks up trash outside of businesses on Broad Street. The group

he organized in 2014 conducts weekly litter cleanups on Sundays. [FILE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Taking out the trash

Downtown’s litter problem multi-faceted


Litter is a community-wide problem,

but in the central business district,

trash is particularly troublesome.

Broad Street sees heavy vehicle traffic

from people heading to and from

neighborhoods in the city’s urban core and

beyond. It is also ground-zero for the city’s

homeless population. And patrons of the

street’s high concentration of nightclubs,

bars and restaurants are sometimes careless

with their cigarette butts and to-go cups.

“It’s our most heavily trafficked area,”

said Edkesha Anderson, manager of the city’s

Keep Augusta Beautiful program. “You have

people there consistently throughout the

day, all day every day.”

The 1½-year-old program, which became

an affiliate of the national Keep America

Beautiful organization in March, is employing

a multi-prong approach to fighting litter

32 |

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7/29/2019 4:20:16 PM

RIGHT: Edkesha Anderson,

program manager for

Keep Augusta Beautiful,

shows one of the Adopt a

Spot signs that volunteer

clean-up groups use for

designated areas.

BELOW: Trash and cigarette

butts fill the base of a

signpost on the 900 block

of Broad Street. Litter

groups say the recent

indoor smoking ban has

led to an accumulation of

discarded cigarette butts

throughout downtown.



in downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Its primary focus is education and outreach, as

every piece of litter has a human face behind it.

“Our motto is litter begins and ends with us,” she

said. “If we stop littering, litter won’t be there.”


The single-largest source of downtown litter

comes from smokers, Anderson said. The problem

of errantly flicking cigarette butts on streets and

sidewalks has been exacerbated by the city’s indoor

smoking ban in bars and most public places.

The ordinance took effect Jan. 1.

“For some reason, it has become natural habit for

people to just flick their butts instead of putting them

into the trash cans or ashtrays,” Anderson said.

Her program’s affiliation with the national

organization gives it access to low-cost cigarette

receptacles – referred to as “sidewalk butlers” – and

airtight, foil-lined “pocket ashtrays” that smokers

can use to store their butts until they find a trash can.

Anderson has been trying to get the word out to bar

and restaurant owners that both products are free to

any downtown business that requests them. | 33

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7/29/2019 4:20:27 PM

Cups, cans and straws litter

a median on the 800 block of

Broad Street. [DAMON CLINE/


Her group, which is housed within the

city’s Environmental Services department,

also has been reaching out to nonprofits

and agencies providing services to the

homeless, who often leave behind trash on

sidewalks and in business doorways when

they can’t get into a shelter for the night.

“We talk to them about using the trash

cans,” Anderson said. “A lot of them

didn’t think about it or didn’t care. But just

talking to them and getting to know them

has helped out a whole lot.”


Although cleaning city streets is largely

a municipal responsibility, Keep Augusta

Beautiful is seeking volunteers to help

patrol downtown for litter.

The most active and successful downtown

volunteer group, Operation Clean

City, was created more than four years

before Anderson’s program was created.

The well-organized group, founded by

former downtown resident Glen Ford,

picks up trash once a week along Broad

Street from the 500 block to the 1000


The group, which includes a mix of

residents, downtown business owners and

active-duty Navy volunteers from Fort

Gordon, goes out on Sunday mornings –

when litter from bars and nightclubs has


“It’s a really good group, and they’re

very passionate about cleaning up the

city,” said Anderson, who is trying to

34 |

0818_T_32_AM____.indd 34

7/29/2019 4:20:39 PM

An Operation Clean City sign posted at K’s Buffalo Wings at 828 Broad St. reminds people to dispose

of litter in trash cans. [DAMON CLINE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

identify another organization that might

be willing to adopt the western half of

Broad Street.

Keep Augusta Beautiful also is overseeing

the adoption of Broad Street’s

medians. In late 2018, the first median was

adopted by a group of 900 block business

owners headed by Wynn Capital’s

Rob Wynn. In addition to litter removal,

Wynn’s volunteer coalition also funds

upkeep of the median’s landscaping.

Anderson said she hopes the improved

appearance of the 900 block median

encourages additional adoptions along the


“We’re building out that model to

scale it to other (property) owners,” she

said. “We’ve had a couple of businesses

approach us about partnering on different

medians in the area.”


Broad Street has trash cans at every

street corner. But city blocks in downtown

Augusta are roughly twice the size of the

typical city block, so more cans may be

needed to curb downtown litter.

“In doing different studies and talking to

other communities, we may need to place

additional cans,” Anderson said. “But then

again, it comes down to money, because

somebody has to service those cans.”

The city contracts with two companies

for weekly pickup on Broad Street.

Advanced Disposal handles the territory

west of Fifth Street; Orion Waste

Solutions covers the area east of Fifth


More cans could require additional

personnel or possibly an additional

truck, she said. The city’s contracts with

its garbage collectors run through the

end of 2021 and the county is in the midst

of formulating a new 10-year wastemanagement


“We have an idea of how to strategically

place cans to make it easier (for people to

use) but that is down the road, that is not

going to happen overnight,” she said.


Urban residential neighborhoods, which

don’t have trash cans on every corner

and are pocketed with vacant homes and

empty lots, are challenging to keep litterfree.

Some more than others.

Harrisburg and Olde Town have fairly

robust volunteer groups doing regular

neighborhood cleanups. The Laney-

Walker/Bethlehem neighborhood does


“Some areas, I think, it’s going to take

a little more time,” said Anderson, whose

previous job at the city was serving as a | 35

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A city waste bin overflows with trash in front of a business on James Brown Boulevard. [DAMON CLINE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

project manager in the Laney-Walker area for

the Housing and Community Development


Anderson said litter in Laney-Walker is rare

in the neighborhood’s recently redeveloped

sections, such as Pine Street’s Heritage Pine

subdivision, but common on side streets with

overgrown lots and vacant homes.

While city workers occasionally uncover an

illegal dump on a vacant lot at a dilapidated

home, the vast majority of litter are convenience

store and fast food items carelessly

tossed by motorists and pedestrians.

“What we find in the neighborhood is

people will go to the small convenience

store and that litter will literally follow them

home,” Anderson said. “Drinks, candy wrappers

– we’ve seen whole plates of food on the

ground. They typically will eat it and once it’s

gone, it will go on the ground, and that’s the

type of behavior we want to change.”

Unkempt vacant properties are magnets for

litter, she said. Her employees have noticed

people are more likely to throw trash on

overgrown lots than ones that are frequently

mowed. The observation appears to support

the “broken window” theory, which posits

minor infractions such as litter and graffiti

encourages more of the same activity and even

more serious crimes.

Anderson said the city’s criminal activity

“heat map” closely matches her map of areas

with the most serious litter problems.

Which makes her division’s mission all the

more important. Litter, she said, is an individual

act of carelessness, but when aggregated,

it reflects poorly on the entire city.

“Augusta is a beautiful city,” she said. “If

we can just get people to care again, we’ll be

all right.”

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The ‘other’ downtown

North Augusta leaders seeking downtown destination status

OPPOSITE PAGE: Avery Spears-

Mahoney is the executive director

of North Augusta Forward, which

is focused on creating a unique

identity for North Augusta’s

traditional central business




Avery Spears-Mahoney

bristles a little bit

when she hears North

Augusta described as

a “bedroom community.”

“I think North Augusta is more

sophisticated than that, it just doesn’t

present itself as such just yet,” the

executive director of North Augusta

Forward said. “I think we can be

more of a complement to downtown

Augusta, and vice versa, if we can

have our own identity.”

Creating that unique identity

in North Augusta’s traditional

central business district is her

organization’s No. 1 task. The

public-private nonprofit group is

forging ahead on plans to make the

sleepy downtown as vibrant as the

city’s newer Riverside Village district,

where a host of development

has sprung up around the SRP Park

baseball stadium.

The North Augusta native acknowledges

revitalization efforts in the

city’s downtown proper have been on

the backburner in recent years.

“It wasn’t anything intentional on

anyone’s part, it was just by default,”

said Spears-Mahoney, who was hired

to head the organization last year after

serving for five years as director of

the Aiken Downtown Development

Association. “It took a laser focus to

accomplish what they accomplished

over there (at Riverside Village). But

it did leave downtown kind of with its

hands in the air saying, ‘What about

us?’ ”

North Augusta Forward’s renewed

focus on downtown comes after the

city was recently accepted into the

Main Street South Carolina program,

a statewide initiative that arms communities

with technical support and

subject-matter experts to assist in

revitalization efforts.

Earlier this year the program’s staff

unveiled a strategic plan that calls for

everything from increasing downtown’s

connectivity to Riverside Village

and The Greeneway urban trail

system to streetscape improvements

and redevelopment of downtown

buildings and vacant lots.

A top priority is beautifying the

gateway to downtown by redeveloping

the former North Augusta Carpet

Shop on Georgia Avenue, a property

the organization purchased in 2018.

The building, which once housed a

roller-skating rink, and its adjacent

tract of vacant land are envisioned as | 39

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future mixed-use development with

restaurant and co-working space.

The property’s proximity to

Center Street – the main gateway to

Riverside Village – makes it a crucial

linkage between the old downtown

and the newer riverfront development.

It also could give visitors

another reason to venture from The

Greeneway – named for Tom Greene,

the former mayor of North Augusta

and a founding member of North

Augusta Forward – into the city


“We see that as kind of a pivot

point,” Spears-Mahoney said. “Connecting

to Riverside Village isn’t as

easy as it sounds, just because of the

topography. It’s not as walkable as

one would think.”

Another major component of the

plan is using trees and landscaping

to make Georgia Avenue – the

main link between downtown North

Augusta and downtown Augusta –

more inviting. Spears-Mahoney said

streetscape improvements could

have a traffic-calming effect.

“We’re trying to slow traffic a

little bit without narrowing the

road,” she said. “We know that

people are coming and going for a

reason, but we just want them to take

notice of the businesses and realize

they’re in a place that is unique and


The strategic plan noted North

Augusta’s downtown needs more

restaurants and specialty businesses,

which could easily be housed in the

district’s 35,000-square-feet of

vacant commercial space, especially

if the larger buildings were redeveloped

into multi-unit properties.

North Augusta Forward’s plan says

the city loses more than $11 million in

full-service restaurant revenue alone.

The plan said downtown North

Augusta could support up to five

additional restaurants, eight coffee

shop/snack businesses and two to

three specialty boutiques based on

current population projections,

which forecast 950 new households

The view looking north on Georgia Avenue in downtown North Augusta. [SPECIAL]

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An artist rendering depicts

a re-landscaped Georgia

Avenue in downtown North

Augusta. [SPECIAL] | 41

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in North Augusta by 2024,

boosting the population to

nearly 24,100.

Spears-Mahoney said she

does not consider her group’s

revitalization efforts as “competing”

with Augusta’s.

“Downtown Augusta has

always been kind of the de facto

downtown for North Augusta

residents. When you go there

to eat, you see everybody from

North Augusta,” she said.

“We’ve just got to balance that

out a little bit and get people to

provide things in our downtown

that people want to do and see

and experience.”

Although North Augusta’s

downtown doesn’t have the

historic buildings and loftapartment

potential of its larger

neighbor, the city’s compact

business district makes it easier

to build critical mass and create

shopping “districts” compared

to downtown Augusta’s long

and narrow central business


“Boutique retail may be more

popular in our downtown because

ABOVE: A building sits vacant

in downtown North Augusta on

Georgia Avenue. [SPECIAL]

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A downtown North Augusta property re-imagined as a bar/theater. [SPECIAL] | 43

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it’s more condensed, whereas in

downtown Augusta those businesses

might be on two separate

ends,” she said. “Some of those

(businesses) that are hard to attract

in downtown Augusta, we could be

the answer to that and complement

downtown Augusta and vice versa.”

North Augusta Forward, which

grew out of the North Augusta

2000 Foundation in 1999, is a

nonprofit organization whose

board members include business

and civic leaders. It operates

in a similar manner to Augusta

Tomorrow, which was founded in

1982 to foster public-private partnerships

to revitalize downtown

Augusta following the exodus of

commerce in the 1970s.

Although downtown revitalization

is North Augusta Forward’s

primary focus, it’s overall mission

is to enhance the quality of life for

all of the city’s residents.

“If you want to put a big

umbrella over it, it is to improve

the quality of life in North

Augusta,” Spears-Mahoney said.

“Downtown is a big piece of that.”

RIGHT: The former

Carpet Shop building

on Georgia Avenue and

an adjacent parcel were

recently acquired for

future redevelopment

by North Augusta

Forward. [SPECIAL]

BELOW: An artist

rendering envisions

what the former

Carpet Shop property

on Georgia Avenue

could become after



44 |

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I.M. Pei displays a large-scale model of lower Broad Street in 1974. Many of the designs would be implemented during the 1970s.


Pei days


Noted architect captivated Augusta during the 1970s

There’s a saying in architectural

circles that today’s eyesore is

tomorrow’s gem.

Some could argue the

inverse applies to I.M. Pei’s designs

in downtown Augusta during the


The internationally acclaimed

architect, who died earlier this year,

gave the city center some of its most

distinctive – and disdained – landmarks,

from the modernist penthouse

atop the historic Lamar Building to

the sunken parking bays along lower

Broad Street.

The Chinese-born architect who

rose to fame in America after World

War II brought his striking designs to

Augusta at a time civic leaders were

fighting to keep downtown from succumbing

to urban decay.

Pei’s nearly decade-long association

with the Garden City was largely

the result of one man: the late R.

Eugene Holley.

It started in 1973 when the influential

banker and state senator decided

to remodel his Lamar Building – then

known as the Southern Finance


“I remodel landmarks, save landmarks

and build next to landmarks,”

Holley told The Augusta Chronicle.

Flush with cash from oil investments,

Holley hired Pei’s New

York-based firm for the landmark

remodeling job.

Within a year, Pei was being

courted to design the city’s new civic

center, a project Holley influenced as

chairman of the Augusta-Richmond

County Coliseum Authority.

Community leaders were so

enamored by the John F. Kennedy

Memorial Library’s architect that

they hired him to take over a | 45

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The penthouse office atop the Lamar Building, designed by I.M. Pei, is lined with white marble hand-selected in Italy.


comprehensive redesign of Broad

Street that grew out of a six-yearold

master plan funded by a Greater

Augusta Chamber of Commerce


“I personally like the spirit here,”

Pei told the Augusta Chronicle in

May 1974. “There seems to be strong

civic leadership and a project of this

nature must have the support of the

business and civic leadership.”

Later that year, Pei unveiled his

vision in the form of a large-scale

model that was put on public display.

Residents turned out in droves

to see the miniaturized Broad

Street with below-grade parking

bays and raised planters to

partially shield vehicles and parking

meters from pedestrian view.

Medians between Sixth and 10th

streets were filled with fountains,

benches and trees – except for

the 600 block, where most of the

space was dedicated to an angular,

8,000-square-foot building Pei

called the “Chamber Pavilion.”

Reducing sections of the six-lane

street to four stemmed from Pei’s

desire to create spaces where downtown

shoppers, workers and visitors

could linger.

“I looked at all that parking lot in

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The building at 600 Broad St. that houses the Augusta Regional

Collaboration incubator and community space was designed as the

Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce building in the 1970s by noted


the bleak noonday sun,” Pei said. “But

your shopping center is probably better

than most of the downtown shopping

centers in America.”

B.L. Talbert, one of the hundreds of

Augusta residents to view the model,

told the Chronicle she believed the

improvements would “be a great asset.”

“Downtown is dying and needs a

good shot in the arm,” she said.

The Chronicle’s coverage of the | 47

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event seemed to reflect the community’s

yearning for action:

“The delight expressed by Augusta

citizens at the public showing of

the Broad Street revamp plans

Wednesday was tinged with a

moody pessimism that these

plans would wind up like so many

others – moldering on a shelf.”

But Pei’s plans didn’t molder;

the Augusta City Council unanimously

approved the $4 million

revitalization concepts – $20.8

million in today’s dollars – just a

week after the public unveiling.

Meanwhile, Pei’s firm plowed

ahead with the modernization plan

for Holley’s building – a pyramidshaped

rooftop penthouse whose

abundant use of glass panes were

in sharp contrast to the building’s

Beaux Arts-style architecture.

Holley exaggerated the incongruent

structure, completed in 1976,

even more by placing a large illuminated

cross at the top that could

be seen for miles.

Pei’s cubist design for the city’s

civic center – which relied on an

internal steel skeleton called a

“space frame” – also raised eyebrows.

Bids for the project came

in at $15 million because contractors

said the unorthodox design

couldn’t be built under its $12

million budget.

The renowned architect’s ambitious

urban creations must have

seemed like a cruel joke when the

near-simultaneous opening of

Augusta’s two suburban shopping

malls in 1978 virtually ground

downtown commerce to a halt for

most of the next two decades.

Broad Street’s unique parking

bays went largely unused, as did

the new L-shaped parking deck at

Ninth and Ellis streets. The deck

today primarily serves as a parking

lot for employees of the Richmond

County Board of Education –

which moved downtown in

2003 – but the submerged bays are

slated for removal under an



Born: April 26, 1917, Guangzhou,

Republic of China

Died: May 16, 2019, New York City


University of Pennsylvania

Massachusetts Institute of


Harvard University


I.M. Pei & Associates 1955–2019

I.M. Pei & Partners 1966–2019

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners 1989–2019

Family: Wife, Eileen Woo; four children

Notable Buildings:

• John F. Kennedy Library, Boston

• National Gallery of Art East

Building, Washington, D.C.

• Louvre Pyramid, Paris

• Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong

• Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

• Hancock Tower, Boston

• Jacob K. Javits Convention Center,

New York City

• Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,


• Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas

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The cubist James Brown Arena is the largest example of an I.M. Pei-designed structure in downtown Augusta.


The Lamar Building, completed

in 1917, had an I.M. Pei-designed

penthouse installed on the roof in

the 1970s by then-owner Eugene



$84 million streetscape plan designed

to make downtown more pedestrian


The half-acre Bicentennial Park in

the median of the 700 block of Broad

Street – so named because its opening

was to coincide with the nation’s

1976 bicentennial – was just as likely

to be frequented by vagabonds than


The once-futuristic civic center,

known today as James Brown Arena,

is no longer the cutting-edge venue it

was when it opened in 1979. By modern

standards, the 8,000-seat arena’s

concourses are claustrophobic, its

concession space is limited and its restrooms

are comically small. Coliseum

authority members have spent three

years haggling over where a $110 million

replacement venue would be built.

The Chamber Pavilion’s trapezoidshaped

workspaces were as impractical | 49

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Lower Broad Street’s distinctive parking bays, such as this one facing the 700 block, were one of the design features recommended

in the early 1970s by noted architect I.M. Pei. [FILE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

in 1978 as they were in 2010 when the

Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce

moved out. The two-story building is

now used as low-cost incubator space

for budding entrepreneurs and artists.

As for the project that launched all the

others – Holley’s Lamar Building penthouse

space – it, too, proved incompatible

over the long haul, with glass panes prone

to leakage in stormy weather and a greenhouse

effect in the summer that made the

space difficult to keep cool.

Dubbed “The Toaster” and “Holley’s

Folly” by many locals, the rooftop

space today is vacant, as is the entire

century-old building supporting it. A

South Carolina investor purchased the

National Register of Historic Placeslisted

skyscraper more than two years

ago at the fire-sale price of $820,000.

Although the success of Pei’s work

in downtown Augusta is debatable, the

impact of Pei’s career in the architectural

world is undeniable; he was famous before

he came to Augusta and his accolades only

increased in subsequent decades.

Pei won the American Institute of

Architects’ Gold Medal in 1979. He

was awarded architecture’s version of

the Nobel, the Pritzker Prize, in 1983.

President George H.W. Bush awarded

him the Medal of Freedom in 1992. He

received the Lifetime Achievement

Award from the Cooper-Hewitt,

National Design Museum in 2003.

Ieoh Ming Pei died May 16, 2019, in

New York City. He was 102.

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City still mulls paid-parking plan



• Use a third-party management company, obtained through a request for


• Paid spaces placed on Broad Street between Fifth and 13th streets, side

streets, Greene Street

• Residential parking permits available in certain areas

• Two-hour limit in paid spaces from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., $1 to $1.25 per hour fee

• Allow parking lot and deck owners to "bolt on" to third-party system

• Enforcement by third-party manager using various methods: booting, limiting

tag renewal, mediation by retired judge

• Reinvest proceeds into better lighting, repairs and improvements

• Better signage and maps to direct motorists to parking

Source: City of Augusta

A woman walks down the sidewalk in the 1000 block of Broad St. in downtown Augusta.

City officials are still working on implementing a parking-management system that

involves paid parking through a contractor. [FILE/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

It won't meet Mayor Hardie Davis' lofty July

goal, but downtown Augusta is likely closer

to having paid, on-street parking.

One of four parking management firms

who bid for the work in May has been selected

and is currently reviewing the city's recommended

requirements to prepare an estimate,

said Marcus Campbell, Davis' chief of staff.

The firms who submitted bids were Lanier

Parking Solutions, which recently implemented

an over 1,000-space system in Macon; Standard

Parking Plus, which boasts managing 2 million

spaces including on-street city of Atlanta

spaces; Parking Company of America, which

manages parking in Dallas and other large

cities using the Passport app and ABM Parking

Services, which recently replaced traditional

meters with kiosk in downtown Scranton, Pa.

Advocates for a parking management plan

include the Downtown Development Authority,

which says slow turnover of downtown spaces

discourages new businesses from locating in the

central business district.

Broad Street had parking meters from 1947

to 1978, but they were removed to discourage

suburban flight to Augusta's new shopping

malls. Davis announced in January he wanted

the system in place by July.

The new program may allow private lots and

garages to become a part of the paid network,

while residential permits may be issued for Ellis,

Greene and side-street residents.

Augusta procurement documents say the

qualifications sought from the companies are

for “physical operation, management, revenue

collection etc.,” of a parking management


The winning vendor is expected to present a

timeline for meeting with the city’s parking task

force, public outreach, a “final draft review”

of a commission presentation, a commission

presentation and implementation.

The task force spearheaded by Davis’ office

developed over the last year a set of recommendations

that include a two-hour limit on parking

from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Broad Street between

Fifth and 13th streets. The recommended fee to

park is $1 to $1.25 per hour.

Meters won’t be installed. Motorists will

locate parking and pay to park using their

smartphones, or at a kiosk.

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Dr. Angela D. Pringle,

superintendent of the Richmond

County School System, poses

for a portrait in the Academy

of Richmond County, Augusta’s

oldest school. [SPECIAL]

Where the Heart Is

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Richmond County School System

The old saying states, “Home

is where the heart is,” and

the heart of the Richmond

County School System is

located prominently at the junction

of James Brown Boulevard and Broad

Street in downtown Augusta.

The Central Office is the hub of

the school system, but in the very

important urban core, the main

office has plenty of company.

In 2005, under the leadership of

board president Jeff Padgett and

superintendent Dr. Charles Larke,

a decision was made to relocate the

Central Office from Heckle Street

in the Harrisburg community to its

current site; using funds from the

Education Special Purpose Local

Option Sales Tax, or ESPLOST – a

one-cent tax added to every retail

purchase in the county – the board

renovated an existing building and

completed the move for $15.3 million.

As one of the largest employers

in downtown Augusta, the board

office has played an important role

in ongoing revitalization of Broad

Street – our employees take advantage

of the abundance of great

restaurants and businesses and contribute

to the downtown economy

every day.

Several of the highest performing

schools in the state and nation

are also thriving in this urban core.

Compared to other schools across

the state, the John S. Davidson Fine

Arts Magnet

School outperforms its counterparts

in almost every ranking. This

year, among magnet schools, U.S.

News and World Report ranked

Davidson No. 1 for the Augusta

metro area, No. 3 for Georgia and

The Richmond County

Board of Education moved

its district headquarters

to Broad Street more than

a decade ago. [FILE/THE


0818_T_54_AM____.indd 55

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No. 30 for U.S. Magnet High

Schools. These rankings are

based on a variety of criteria

including college readiness,

Advanced Placement study

performance, math and reading

proficiency and performance,

and graduation rate.

If you have ever attended a

live performance at Davidson,

you have seen professionalgrade

entertainment and truly

understand why this treasure is

at the top of the rankings, year

after year. Over the next few

years, ESPLOST will contribute

$10.7 million into additional

classroom and specialty-room

renovations at Davidson –

changes that will continue to

support downtown Development.

Just a few blocks from Davidson,

A.R. Johnson Health Science

and Engineering Magnet

School, works in collaboration

with Augusta’s ever-growing

medical community. Through

partnerships with University

Hospital, Augusta University

Health, and the Richmond

County Health Department,

students are able to cycle

through a variety of clinical

rotations and get the necessary

hands-on experience dealing

with patients. Many of these

students receive certifications

that allow them to enter the

medical workforce at a financial

advantage to employees who

have no experience.

Since 2007, nearly $30 million

has been dedicated to a new

school building, new gymnasium,

classroom additions, and

a state-of-the-art engineering

lab. A.R. Johnson’s nearest

neighbor is historic Lucy Craft

Laney High School; improvements

to both Johnson and

Laney have coincided with the

revitalization of the Laney-

Walker/Bethlehem community

Students in the Academy

of Richmond County’s

International Baccalaureate

program stage a debate

about the government’s

role in the economy. The

urban school’s program is

among the most rigorous in



56 |

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Downtown Augusta’s John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School is one of the top performing high schools in the country.

The school’s chrous is shown in this photo prior to a recent performance at St. Paul’s Church. [SPECIAL]

and has given this area of the urban

core a refreshed sense of pride.

Since 2006, the Richmond County

Board of Education has devoted $42

million in renovations to this landmark

and completely changed the

landscape of the area. A new athletic

complex, gymnasium, kitchen, cafeteria,

and classrooms have added to

an overall sense of renewal.

In addition, the Early College

Program is among the schoolchoice

options offered at Laney. The

program is a collaborative effort

with Augusta University that allows

eligible students to complete a specialized

curriculum, and if students

make sufficient grades and meet

entrance requirements, they enter

Augusta University and are able to

earn two years of college credit. The

program is open to all Richmond

County high school students and has

the potential to save families $35,000

or more in college expenditures.

Additionally, Laney hosts one

of the county’s two Academies for

Advanced Placement Studies—the

other is located at Westside High

School. This specialized program

is supported by a three-year grant

from the National Math and Science

Initiative and offers students an

impressive selection of AP courses.

Still very much within the urban

core, the Academy of Richmond

County lies just up the hill from

downtown. Chartered in 1783, ARC

is one of the oldest public schools

in the United States, and thanks to

the oversight of many school board

members and politicians, it has

maintained its architectural and academic

integrity for almost 250 years.

Countless alumni – to include governors,

celebrities, doctors, judges,

and athletes — have graced the halls

and stairwells of this beautiful building

and share memories that surpass

time and place.

ESPLOST revenues have been set

aside for this national landmark at

the tune of more than $35 million

for updates and new construction

projects. As part of modernization

and restoration, Richmond now

hosts the International Baccalaureate

(IB) Diploma and Career-related

Programmes – both of which offer

rigorous curricula; in addition, IB

students gain an understanding of

international affairs, community

service, and citizenship.

Colleges and universities from

around the world respect the qualifications

received by our IB graduates

and the Programme has played

an integral role in making sure our

students are globally competitive.

Live, work, play, and learn in

Augusta! We are committed to

downtown development, the residents

of Richmond County, and the

futures of our children. If you’re not

sure about where our heart lies, come

downtown and check out a few of our

treasures. | 57

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Thanks to Unisys

Tech firm was a catalyst for

downtown office development



Jordan Trotter

Commercial Real Estate

The front entrance of the Unisys operations center in the Discovery Plaza

building along the Savannah River. The Fortune 1000 company’s arrival

helped kickstart a tech office boom in downtown Augusta. [SPECIAL]

We are all well aware now

of the transformation that

is beginning to take place in

downtown Augusta and this

very publication is a reflection

of the renaissance that we are

watching evolve!

As we wait to hear what new

projects are “on the drawing

board” for downtown, we

should pause and reflect what

arguably was the catalyst for

this resurgence: the commitment

from Unisys to open its

Enterprise Service Desk operation

in the former Fort Discovery

space.To better appreciate

Unisys’ level of commitment,

let’s roll the clock back to

2014. At that time, U.S. Army

Cyber had just announced

Army Cyber Command would

be relocating to Fort Gordon.

However no one knew if any

of that growth would spill into


In the years leading up to

2014, the city of Augusta

invested substantial new capital

into downtown, including

a new judicial center, library,

convention center and reno- | 59

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vations to the Municipal Building.

While these commitments were large

in scope, it was still taxpayer dollars

backing them.

Downtown Augusta hadn’t seen

a commitment of private capital on

a large scale in many, many years.

Office buildings were aging with few

new tenants and retail shops were

largely vacant.

Enter Unisys, a $3 billion worldwide

enterprise, that saw something

much different.

Unisys saw a diamond in the rough

and a chance to make a transformative

investment into Augusta. The

closure of the Fort Discovery children’s

science museum provided one

of the two main ingredients Unisys

needed in its real estate: a large block

of contiguous space. The second

ingredient was parking for the 700

employees Unisys would hire, which

was provided graciously by the city

and Augusta Economic Development


The “add ons” from there would

be riverfront views, state incentives

and a chance to provide jobs to some

of the very children who toured Fort

Discovery many years earlier. These

future hires bring the museum’s mission

of science and technology education

full circle by providing science

and technology based employment

in the same building as the previous

educational mission.

Unisys chose our diamond in the

rough over 20 other cities trying to

tell their stories as well.

Asking a Fortune 1000 company

to make a $20 million investment

into a downtown that had not seen

any private capital put into it on that

scale in decades was a tough ask. Deke

Copenhaver, Hardie Davis, Henry

Ingram and the Augusta EDA handled

this with true passion and professionalism,

and ultimately converted

that work into a ribbon cutting that

is deserving of much credit and

appreciation.Since Gov. Nathan

Deal cut the ribbon on Unisys’ new

center in fall 2015, the gains in our

The Port Royal Condominium tower looms behind the offices of Unisys in the Discovery

Plaza center along the Savannah River. The company’s massive operations center is

considered a catalyst for high-tech business in the urban core. [SPECIAL]

downtown setting have been easy to

chart and have been predominantly

made with private capital. To name

a few, downtown can now call home

to Hyatt House, TaxSlayer, Shared-

Space, Georgia Cyber Center, a new

YMCA and extensive renovations to

the SunTrust and Augusta University

office towers. There have been

expansions by First Community Bank,

Security Federal Bank and the Weir/

Stewart marketing firm, along with

many vacant retail storefronts now

occupied with vibrant stores.Other

projects on the drawing board include

the $90 million-plus Riverfront at

the Depot development, continued

expansion of the Georgia Cyber

Center campus on Reynolds Street,

and another nationally flagged hotel

on Broad Street later this year, to

name a few.Private capital investment

tends to follow other private capital

investment, but certainly someone

has to dive in first, and for that, we

all owe Unisys a debt of gratitude for

seeing the potential and making the


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5TH STREET BRIDGE PROPOSAL: Plans are in play to convert the Fifth Street

bridge into a pedestrian- and bicycle-only pathway as part of a multimillion-dollar

Transportation Investment Act project designed to make downtown more walkable.

Here, here! Daily vehicle traffic on the worn-out 1930s-era bridge is a mere 2,400

vehicles — vehicles that can just as easily cross the larger Gordon Highway bridge just

a block away. Aside from giving walkers and bikers one of the best views of the Augusta

skyline and a safer route into North Augusta, the repurposed structure could be an

additional shot in the arm to lower Broad Street revitalization efforts.

PROLONGING THE INEVITABLE: The family of the late strip-club impresario James

“Whitey” Lester knew for years his grandfathered adult-business permits were a onetime-only

deal. Yet the heirs still tried, and failed, to petition the Augusta Commission

earlier this year to continue operating his Broad Street topless bars through an estate.

How the ploy to flout a decades-old ordinance ever made it past a commission subcommittee

is a mind-boggling travesty. If not for public outcry, the permits for downtown’s

seediest businesses could very well have been extended. Now Lester’s heirs have filed a

frivolous, last-ditch lawsuit to tie up the permits in legal red tape.

PROPOSED FILM REGULATIONS: An independent film production in Augusta during

2017 exposed an inconvenient truth: the city had no formal playbook to deal with

insurance, public safety and logistical issues. Seeking to become a bigger player in the

state’s $10 billion-a-year film industry, the city’s official film liaison, Film Augusta, set

about to change. The regulations it has proposed are far from heavy-handed; in fact,

they are modeled after policies already in place in many Georgia municipalities. The

motion-picture industry is big business; there’s no reason for the city to reinvent the

wheel every time Hollywood comes to town.

CIRCLES OF INCERTITUDE?: Traffic circles, also known as “roundabouts,” have been

used to keep traffic flowing in cities for generations. So why are so many Augusta

motorists leery of – and confused by – the concept? While most circles have been

installed in suburban areas, they are beginning to appear in urban core neighborhoods

such as Laney-Walker Bethlehem. The circles are among the most efficient means for

thwarting congestion at intersections that previously relied on four-way stops (which,

sadly, also seem to confuse many motorists). It would be a shame if a handful of vocal

critics derailed further development of roundabouts in areas where they could be


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“CHAIN” IS NOT A DIRTY WORD: On its surface, the recent opening of a Domino’s

Pizza franchise at the corner of 13th and Reynolds is a minor business story. But when

you consider national chains have been largely absent from the central business district

for years, the arrival of America’s largest pizza company should be taken as a sign

downtown Augusta has entered a new era of prosperity. Yes, we should have a “shop

local” affinity for our home-grown and one-of-a-kind establishments, but that is no

reason to grouse about national brands showing interest in the city center. People who

would prefer to see a building remain vacant than be occupied by a job-creating, taxpaying

“chain” establishment need to reevaluate their priorities.

GHOSTS OF PERIODICALS PAST: At what point do empty publication racks become

litter? Someone at the city code-enforcement department might want to ponder that

question, because there are an awful lot of boxes strewn about downtown for tabloids,

magazines and shoppers that no longer exist. Metal and plastic boxes sit askew on sidewalks

and street corners throughout the central business district, serving as little more

than makeshift trash cans and blank canvases for bumper stickers, graffiti and handbills.

The city should send these boxes to the nearest scrap recycler – and send the wasteremoval

bill to their shameless owners.

GOING ‘ALL IN’: The progress of downtown revitalization, if left to the public sector

alone, will never move beyond the speed of government. It’s going to take privatesector

dollars to help make Augusta’s city center a place residents can be proud of.

The best way to “pitch in” is contributing to the All In Augusta campaign, an Augusta

Convention & Visitors Bureau-managed fund to seed the projects outlined in the city’s

Destination Blueprint tourism plan. Whether you’re a major downtown stakeholder

with thousands of dollars to spare, or an individual who can afford to forgo a few

Frappuccinos, there’s a place for your tax-exempt contribution at www.visitaugusta.

STILL WAITING...: Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis appears to have had a change of

heart regarding a new James Brown Arena – he now supports expanding the facility at

its existing downtown location. But it seems the Augusta Richmond County Coliseum

Authority members he subtly influenced in 2017 to select a south Augusta site remain

frozen in time. The latest wrinkle in the impasse centers on a piece of MCG Foundationowned

property at the corner of 15th Street and John C. Calhoun Expressway – a site

that has excellent traffic access but is still too far-removed from the Bell Auditorium and

downtown’s burgeoning arts and entertainment district. The price tag for a new venue

currently hovers around $110 million. How much will it cost by the time the powers-thatbe

realize the arena’s best location is its current one? | 63

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Developers of the historic property forging public-private deal with city officials


Downtown’s largest public-private

partnership is currently in the hands of attorneys.

The subsidiary of Birmingham, Ala.-based Bloc

Global and city officials are examining the fine print to determine

if the $94 million Riverfront at the Depot project is fair to all parties.

According to the agreement, the city would issue $14 millions in bonds to

provide parking for the 140 upscale apartments, numerous retail buildings

ant a 100,000-square-foot “class A” office tower.

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Other parking concerns are being

addressed, such as the 500-plus spaces

promised to Unisys when they chose to

locate in the Fort Discover children’s

room just off Riverwalk Augusta.

Once everything is signed, construction

at the site could begin in September,

according to Augusta Downtown

Development Director Margaret Woodard.

The developer and the DDA say the

documents will likely be approved this


BLOC Global announced its plans to

redevelop the riverfront property in

October, nearly two years after it began

negotiations to acquire the 6-acre, cityowned

tract at the corner of Sixth and

Reynolds streets.

Its long-range plans for the property,

which it calls Riverfront at the Depot,

includes construction of 100,000

square feet of “class A” office space,

140 upscale apartments and two parking

decks with capacity for nearly 850 cars.

Mike Carpenter, a principal with

BLOC Global Group, said during a briefing

to the city’s Downtown Development

Authority that his firm has a

letter of intent from a microbrewery

to occupy space in the development’s

first phase – the renovation of the

16,000-square-foot historic depot

building into a retail-and-restaurant

bazaar similar to Atlanta’s Ponce City


We’re quite excited about the prospects

of filling up the depot building

with the tenants that we need,” said

Carpenter, adding that he expects to

ink a similar deal with a “food-service

company” in the coming weeks.

According to the plans, Phase 1 is

expected to be funded through $14 million

in bonds issued by the downtown

authority, $1.4 million from state and

federal tax credits for historic preservation,

and $35 million from the developer,

including $28 million in debt and $7

million in equity sold to investors.

To be built with those funds are 140

apartments for $26 million, or around

$188,000 per unit, plus 210 apartment

parking spaces for $5.6 million in “Deck

1,” a combined $13 million project and

one of two parking garages mentioned

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Phase 1 also includes renovating the

depot, where 16,000 square feet will be

up-fitted to house retail for $3 million,

similar to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market.

Another 5,000 feet of new retail space

will be built for $1 million. Retail parking

in Deck 1 will include $2.1 million for 80

depot spaces and $666,000 for the new

retail’s 25 spaces.

Due diligence documents for the

project was set for June 30. Bloc Global

met the deadline but request a 60-day

extension to ensure the deal protects

their interests.

“They probably didn’t need to (get the

extension) because they weren’t late on

anything,” Woodard told the Augusta

Chronicle “But in order to protect their

investment, they went ahead with the

extension because they’ve invested

half a million dollars so far in the due

diligence documents.”

The Depot project will be the largest

downtown investment since the

construction of the Augusta Marriott at

the Convention Center and the adjacent

office building housing the Morris

Museum of Art. The Depot project is

eclipsed only by the $200-plus million

public-private investment in the

SRP-Park anchored Riverside Village

development in North Augusta.

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Community service officers are welcome addition


6.5 5 6.5 3


Previous score: 6.5


Previous score: 5.5


Previous score: 6.5


Previous score: 2.5

For the most part, there are

few good reasons – but plenty

of bad ones – for unsupervised

minors to be on downtown

streets between 11 p.m. and 5

a.m. The city has a curfew law,

but enforcement appears to be

less-than-stringent; many are

unaware the law is on the books.

It would behoove law enforcement

officers to be more diligent

at investigating apparent violations,

as any juvenile willing to

break a curfew law is capable of

committing a much more serious

infraction. The presence of additional

community service officers

downtown are a welcome sight.



Previous score: 8.5

The city is preparing to turn

the old train depot property to

the Alabama-based developers

of the Riverfront at the Depot

mixed-use project, clearing the

way for work to commence at

the long-anticipated east-end

site. But why are city leaders

seemingly giving a lukewarm

reaction to a local developer

proposing an even larger

proposal to extend the Augusta

Common northward to the

riverfront? Does the city lack the

bandwidth to handle another

major public-private project, or

are politics at play?

Augusta’s government is a constant

mixed bag. The good – such

as the city’s code enforcement

department adding two new

downtown-dedicated officers –

always seems to be offset by

the bad – such as an Augusta

commissioner’s 11th hour attempt

to obstruct the Riverfront at

the Depot project over a 60-day

request to extend the due diligence

period. The county coliseum

authority is back on track to

expand James Brown Arena, but it

has been in stasis since an impractical

alternative was politically

forced upon it in 2017. And we’ve

still yet to see any elected official

who could qualify as a “champion”

for downtown.



Previous score: 5.5

Augusta’s laudable indoor smoking

ban has produced an unpleasant

byproduct – more cigarette butts

on city streets and sidewalks.

Downtown bar and restaurant

owners would do themselves, and

everyone else, a favor by ensuring

their establishments offer ample

outdoor ashtrays and cigarette

disposal units to keep Broad Street

from looking trashy. What good are

streetscape improvements if they’re

covered in litter? Lack of maintenance

in downtown’s public spaces

remains subpar at best.

Multiple multi-family developments

are in the works in the

urban core, but until they come

to fruition, downtown’s housing

inventory will continue to trail

the pent-up demand for urbandwelling

young professionals

whose disposable income would

attract much-needed commercial

businesses – namely grocery

stores and general merchandise

retailers. The fastest way to

improve a downtown is to get

people living downtown.



Previous score: 7.5

It was perhaps unrealistic to

assume the Miller Theater

could sustain the breakneck

pace of its inaugural-year

programming. Hopefully, the

venue’s second- and third-phase

renovations will usher in more

“experimental and experiential”

performing arts opportunities.

Meanwhile, Augusta’s other

historic theater, the Imperial,

is preparing to embark on a $4

million capital campaign for

much needed-improvements.

And while the recently-opened

Pexcho American Dime Museum

might not be your cup of tea,

the sideshow-themed attraction

certainly widens downtown’s

entertainment spectrum.

Progress, though glacially slow,

is being made. City officials

have identified a vendor to run

downtown’s long-overdue parking-management

program, which

is needed to keep all-day parkers

from inconveniencing business

patrons. New signs that prohibit

vehicles over 18 feet long – about

two feet longer than a full-size

SUV – from Broad Street’s sunken

parking bays is also a step in

the right direction; commercial

vehicles and work trucks belong

on side streets.



Previous score: 7.5

A slew of new eateries and offices

have opened in recent months,

and more appear to be on the

way as young professionals and

students gravitate to the central

business district’s uniquely urban

environment. Time will tell, however,

if the energy of upper Broad

Street will spur development at

downtown’s larger vacant structures

and “cross the tracks” past

the 600 block once the Riverfront

at the Depot project starts going




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EDGE continued from 13

Although Edge is morally opposed to

strip clubs, he argues the adult businesses

are stunting growth on lower

Broad Street, which has received a boost

from the opening of the Miller Theater

and the announcement of the $94 million

Riverfront at the Depot project on

the 500 block of Reynolds Street.

If Lester’s businesses close – as other

grandfathered strip clubs did after losing

their license – “it will absolutely make a

difference,” Edge said.

“People are buying property and speculating,

waiting and anticipating the day

when those clubs close,” Edge said. “There’s

a stigma that goes with those businesses. It

KEUROGLIAN continued from 15

other, you’re going to get offended when

you see crime taking place at your neighbor’s


What started with Tuesday night

potluck dinners at his Walker Street

home has grown into block-by-block

clean-up initiatives that attract hundreds

of residents and volunteers. The father of

two has literally flipped the script in Olde

Town: Criminals now look over their


After driving dealers and prostitutes

into the shadows through aggressive

reporting, Keuroglian and other neighborhood

activists turned their focus to

the places they congregate – dilapidated

rental properties, abandoned homes and

overgrown lots.

Rather than overburdening police

and code enforcement personnel with

complaints, volunteers have made the

officials’ jobs easier by using a “nuisance

property rubric” to crack down on problem


“Criminals like darkness, so it doesn’t

bother me to tear down blighted homes,”

Keuroglian said. “The light causes

does hinder that entire block.”

The Lester family has filed a lawsuit

against the city, arguing the ordinance

violates the clubs’ First Amendment

right to free speech and its 14th

Amendment right to equal protection

under the law. Edge said he believes

the lawsuits are a last-ditch effort to

keep the strip clubs operating as long as


The prohibition of alcohol and nude

dancing goes into effect Jan. 1. Edge said

he believes the demise of the topless bars

will reduce crime and have a positive

impact on patrons and employees.

“There’s this image of strip clubs that

Hollywood romanticizes,” Edge said.

“It’s very much not the case here.”

darkness to flee.”

Keuroglian, who has been involved

with ministries since college, spent

years as a top salesman for a national

medical-device maker before his job

was eliminated in a corporate merger.

He was recruited to Augusta by First

Presbyterian Church to run its young

professionals program in 2008.

Ironically, the company’s new owner

offered to hire him back just as he was

getting settled in. Keuroglian was

tempted after two men attempted to

rob him while he was unpacking his car

during his first night in Olde Town. The

would-be assailants fled when he pulled a

shotgun from his back seat.

He credits his wife, Melissa, for

convincing him his higher calling was

Augusta, not a six-figure salary.

“She said to me, ‘No. Why are we

here? We made a decision to trust God.

When is it going to be enough for you to

trust God?’” Keuroglian said. “She was

the bedrock to see that, maybe, these

were just trials. But after that first week

of being here, we started seeing signs of

God working. We started seeing signs

this neighborhood was coming back.”

HINES continued from 17

other how to grow food again –

something we have lost in our

modern food system,” she said.

This mission is particularly

important as Harrisburg is

considered a “food desert” since

the closure of the 15th Street

Kroger – the area’s sole supermarket

– two years ago.

Hines’ network of volunteers

help run other gardens,

including one at Golden Harvest

Food Bank that provides fresh

produce and herbs to supplement

the donated packaged and

canned goods served at the food

bank’s Master’s Table Soup

Kitchen, which feeds about 300

people daily.

And at 109 Eve St., directly

behind the Salvation Army Kroc

Center, is the Augusta Locally

Grown Veggie Park Farmers

market, now it its seventh

year of operation. Open every

Tuesday from 4-7 p.m. between

April and October, the market

gives small growers a venue to

peddle their produce.

It also offers double discounts

to people paying with

SNAP benefits (better known

as “food stamps”) to incentivize

healthier eating. Academic

studies suggested low-income

households see quality-of-life

improvements when reducing

their consumption of fast food

and convenience items.

“It’s not just about growing

food,” Hines said. “It’s

about growing economic


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MARTIN continued from 19

nonprofit health system for lowincome

and uninsured patients.

Brian said the two couples wanted

to be closer to those they serve.

“The idea is that some of the

same issues, resources, injustices –

all of the things that the patients

in the community deal with, we

wanted to feel that too,” Martin

said. “We wanted to have the same

commissioner. We wanted to go

to the same town hall meetings,

to have the same community. By

living there, you can definitely

relate a lot more to friends in the


Laney-Walker/Behtlehem was

a thriving middle class area and

the center of African-American

commerce until civil rights laws

encouraged blacks to shop and

move wherever they wanted.

The disinvestment created

entire blocks of abandoned and

dilapidated homes until the city

launched a serious revitalization

effort in 2008 to repopulate the

area with working-class residents

through new home construction

and special financing.

The lots the Martin and Ayers

homes sit on were previously occupied

by abandoned shotgun shacks.

The final home on the Pine Street

project is nearing completion and

homes are already being built on

nearby 11th Street.

Martin said the influx of new

residents is giving longtime

community residents something

they’ve lacked for years: hope for

a better future. He said it doesn’t

take much to chip away at the

nihilism that permeated through

the neighborhood for decades.

“When I cut my grass so it

doesn’t look like the overgrown,

dilapidated property with the

yellow sticker on the front door,

I’m kind of encouraging that

hope along,” he said. “I’m telling

everybody there is hope, too, when

I cut my hedges. When mommy

and daddy are both outside playing

with the family, anything to just

show the hope that things are going

to be better, and we’re part of ushering

that in.”

Martin doesn’t consider himself

a community “activist.”

“Not that that is wrong – you

can be an activist – but I feel like

if you have a strong family who

cares about their neighbors and

you plant those families in various

spots, it’s going to enrich the

neighborhood,” Martin said.

WYNN continued from 21

leftover money from downtown’s

former Business Improvement

District and funded it with voluntary

contributions from several

900 block businesses, including

TaxSlayer, Wier/Stewart,

Loop Recruiting, Nacho Mama’s,

Powerserve and Haltermann


Wynn said the coalition initially

considered having the contractor

completely re-landscape the space

because it “had been neglected

for so long.” But the proposed

Transportation Investment Actfunded

downtown streetscape

plan, which could radically

restructure the thoroughfare, made

them reconsider.

“So the next best thing was to

take what we have and make it

better,” said Wynn, whose firm

separately funds maintenance of

the LaFayette Center park behind

his building along with TaxSlayer

and Powerserve.

Wynn acknowledges his affinity

for downtown cleanliness borders

on obsessive – he keeps a longhandled

trash grabber in his office

and his business partner, Emmett

Turner jokingly calls him the

“mayor of the 900 block” – but the

37-year-old former naval officer

believes beautifying public spaces

offers the biggest bang for the buck.

“While there are still a bunch

of dilapidated buildings, the real

low-hanging fruit downtown is

landscaping – let’s start by pulling

the weeds and mowing the grass,”

Wynn said. “I don’t see any way to

make the city do it. So this is more

of a pragmatic approach.”

Wynn said his long-term goal

is to encourage businesses and

property owners on other blocks

to conduct organized beautification

efforts to pick up where the

former Clean Augusta Downtown

Initiative left off (the Augusta

Commission ended the five-year

program in 2013 after a petition

showed 48 percent of downtown

property owners favored disbanding

the Business Improvement

District tax).

He said he believes the influx of

young business owners and professionals

to downtown are more

willing to take a do-it-yourself


“The younger generation is not

yet jaded,” Wynn said. | 69

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The Discotheque Lounge was opened

in 1966 by James “Whitey” Lester,

who died earlier this year. His special

permit to operate the club cannot be

passed on to his heirs.

Sunset on Strip Clubs

Last two topless bars’ days are numbered


Lower Broad Street had roughly a

half-dozen topless bars, including

one that was directly across

the street from the former

Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce

offices on the 600 block.

But those businesses closed one by

one as the holders of those grandfathered

adult-entertainment permits

were not allowed to transfer them on

to new owners. The recent death of bar

owner James “Whitey” Lester means

the days are numbered for downtown’s

two remaining strip clubs - The

discotheque Lounge and Vegas Show


Although Lester’s heirs have filed a

lawsuit to prolong their operation as

long as possible, it is unlikely a court

would rule against the ordinance the

bars have been operating under during

the past two decades on opposite sides

of the 500 block of Broad St.

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Vegas Showgirls, also known as The Joker Lounge, is one of the final two topless bars operating in downtown Augusta an a

grandfathered special permit. The permit expired with the death of the clubs’ owner, James “Whitey” Lester earlier this year.


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The estate “is not going to win a federal lawsuit

against a zoning issue,” Commissioner Brandon Garrett

told The Augusta Chronicle earlier this year. “That place

has been grandfathered in for 20 years. I think it might be

one last Hail Mary” attempt.

In 1994, when six strip clubs were operating downtown,

city officials made it illegal for nude clubs to serve alcohol.

But they allowed the owners of the existing clubs, including

Mr. Lester, to keep their alcohol licenses until the clubs

closed or the owner died.

The grandfathered permit that died with Lester allowed

alcohol and nude dancing in the same establishment in

non-industrial districts. Under the new regulation, the

bars would have to move to a light- or heavy-industry

zone or operate strictly as bars (with no nude dancing) or

as strip clubs (that don’t serve alcohol).

Unless the clubs’ federal litigation is successful, the

city’s enforcement action would occur by the end of the


Numerous academic studies claim strip clubs have

a negative effect on their surroundings through crime,

prostitution, drug use and declining property value, while

an equal number show no such correlation.

The clubs detractors say they are the last seedy obstacles

hindering a downtown revitalization on lower Broad.

And city leaders have wanted strip clubs out of downtown

for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the

$94 million Riverfront at the Depot project, “the biggest

development in the history of Augusta a few blocks away,”

Mayor Pro Tem Sean Frantom said.

Fantasy’s closed in 2017. Baby Dolls closed in 2007.

The Marine Room closed in 2005.


In addition to only being permitted in areas zone light

or heavy industrial, adult entertainment businesses

must also abide by a number of other restrictions on

location. Those businesses cannot be within 1,000

feet of:

• A church;

• A public or private elementary or secondary school;

• A child care center;

• The boundaries of a residential district, or the property

line of a lot devoted to residential use;

• A public park;

• A cemetery;

• Another “sexually oriented business;”

• A government building.

The business also cannot locate within an area designated

as a gateway or gateway corridor.

Source: City of Augusta | 73

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Price: $399,500

Stories: Two

Property type: Office/residential

Year built: 1891

Lot size: .12 acres

Gross leasable area: 3,328 square feet

Contact: 706-564-6231


Price: $385,000

Stories: One

Property type: Industrial

Year built: 1985

Lot size: N/A

Gross leasable area: 10,000 square feet

Contact: 706-722-8334

1437 BROAD ST.

Price: $1.3 million

Stories: N/A

Property type: Commercial

Year built: N/A

Lot size 1.37 acres

Gross leasable area: N/A

Contact: 706-294-1757

1247 ELLIS ST.

Price: $299,000

Stories: One

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1962

Lot size: .28 acres

Gross leasable area: 2,272 square feet

Contact: 706-254-2322


Price: $1.6 million

Stories: N/A

Property type: Investment/owner-user

Year built: N/A

Lot size: 1.94 acres

Gross leasable area: N/A

Contact: 706-306-5821

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Price: $1.8 million

Stories: One

Property type: Flex space

Year built: 1982

Lot size: 40 acres

Gross leasable area: 107,800 square feet

Contact: 706-951-1405


Price: $160,000

Stories: One

Property type: Office

Year built: 1950

Lot size: .15

Gross leasable area: 2,184

square feet

Contact: 706-823-6740

2257 BROAD ST.

Price: $225,000

Stories: One

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1975

Lot size: .43 acres

Gross leasable area: 2,448

square feet

Contact: 706-722-5565


Price: $300,000

Stories: N/A

Property type: Land

Year built: N/A

Lot size: 1.82 acres

Gross leasable area: N/A

Contact: 706-854-6731


Price: $845,000

Stories: N/A

Property type: Land

Year built: N/A

Lot size: 1.35 acres

Gross leasable area: N/A

Contact: 706-288-1076 | 75

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Below is a sampling of commercial properties available in Augusta's central business

district. Information was deemed accurate at the time of publishing. This is not a

comprehensive list of all properties for sale or lease in downtown Augusta.



Price: $295,000

Stories: Three

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1854

Lot size: .53 acres

Gross leasable area: 5,997 square feet

Contact: 706-288-1079


Price: $825,000

Stories: Three

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1958

Lot size: .10 acres

Gross leasable area: 12,480 square feet

Contact: 706-254-2322


Price: $1.3 million

Stories: Five

Property type: Office

Year built: 1951

Lot size: .86 acres

Gross leaseable area: 52,000 square feet

Contact: 770-757-0030


Price: $500,000

Stories: One

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1900

Lot size: .17 acres

Gross leasable area: 2,227 square feet

Contact: 706-823-6740

1121-1125 TELFAIR ST.

Price: $900,000

Stories: One

Property type: Office

Year built: 1963

Lot size: .36 acres

Gross lesable area: 864 square feet

Contact: 706-288-1079

305 8TH ST. ▲

Price: $990,000

Stories: Three

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1901

Lot size: .18 acre

Gross leaseable area: 23,664 square feet

Contact: 706-294-1757

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Price: $399,500

Stories: Two

Property type: Residential/office

Year built: 1891

Lot size: .12 acres

Gross leasable area: 3,328 square feet

Contact: 706-564-6231

1295 BROAD ST.

Price: $1.8 million

Stories: Multiple buildings

Property type: Investment or owner use

Year built: Multiple

Lot size: .25 acre

Gross leasable area: 7,100 total square feet

Contact: 706-294-1757


Price: $712,500

Stories: Three

Property type: Retail/office

Year built: 1916

Lot size: .12 acres

Gross leaseable area: 15,856 square feet

Contact: 706-294-1757


Price: $950,000

Stories: Three

Property type: Apartments/commercial

Year built: 1931

Lot size: .19 acres

Gross leaseable area: 9,951 square feet

Contact: 706-288-1079


Price: $60,000

Stories: N/A

Property type: Land

Year built: N/A

Lot size: .10 acre

Gross leaseable area: N/A

Contact: 706-288-1079


Price: $975,000

Stories: One

Property type: Medical

Year built: 1978

Lot size: .28 acres

Gross leaseable area: 4,660 square feet

Contact: 706-823-6740


Price: $220,000

Stories: N/A

Property type: Land

Year built: N/A

Lot size: .17 acres

Gross leaseable area: N/A

Contact: 706-564-6231


Price: $510,000

Stories: N/A

Property type: Land

Year built: N/A

Lot size: .98 acres

Gross leaseable area: N/A

Contact: 706-564-6231

1247 ELLIS ST.

Price: $299,000

Stories: One

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1962

Lot size: .28 acres

Gross leaseable area: 2,772 square feet

Contact: 706-254-2322

454 GREENE ST. ▲

Price: $250,000

Stories: Two

Property type: Office

Year built: 1961

Lot size: .29 acre

Gross leaseable area: 5,342 square feet

Contact: 706-823-6740

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Rental rate: $12 per square foot

Gross leasable area: 1,000 square feet

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1931

Contact: 706-254-2322


Rental rate: $15.75 per square foot

Rentable building area: 13,208 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1923

Contact: 706-288-1073

1290 BROAD ST.

Rental rate: $10 per square foot

Gross leasable area: 4,854 square feet

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1950

Contact: 706-288-1077


Rental rate: $18.50 per square foot

Rentable building area: 127,212 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1975

Contact: 706-736-1031


Rental rate: $22 per square foot

Rentable building area: 10,000 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1966

Contact: 706-823-6740


Rental rate: $22 per square foot

Rentable building area: 187,891 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1960

Contact: 706-823-6740

702 BROAD ST. ▲

Rental rate: $17 per square foot

Rentable building area: 43,890 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1880

Contact: 770-850-6123

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Rental rate: $16 per square foot

Rentable building area: 12,000 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1895

Contact: 706-823-6740


Rental rate: N/A

Rentable building area: 15,000 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1999

Contact: 404-358-3547

1 7TH ST.

Rental rate: N/A

Rentable building area: 126,751 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1990

Contact: 706-736-1031


Rental rate: $4.62 per square foot

Rentable building area: 162 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1861

Contact: 706-564-6231


Rental rate: $6-$9 per square foot

Rentable building area: 2,350-7,350 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1918

Contact: 706-722-8334


Rental rate: $9.35-$18 per square foot

Rentable building area: 160,015 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1916

Contact: 706-564-6231


Rental rate: $16-$18 per square foot

Rentable building area: 9,527 square feet

Property type: Office

Year built: 1916

Contact: 706-564-6231


Rental rate: $12 per square foot

Rentable building area: 1,000 square feet

Property type: Retail

Year built: 1931

Contact: 706-254-2322

631 BROAD ST. ▲

Rental rate: $15 per square foot

Rentable building area: 2,617 to 16,604 square feet

Property type: Retail/office

Year built: 1891

Contact: 706-564-6231 | 81

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Appearance issues can’t

be swept under the rug


heard a lot of “buts” while working

on this edition of 1736.

“I don’t want this to sound negative,


“Don’t quote me on this, but...”

“I don’t want to upset anybody,


“I’d rather not name names, but...”

When it comes to talking about downtown

Augusta’s appearance, it appears many people

are hesitant to actually speak their mind. They

are afraid to point out glaring and obvious

problems. They are timid about rubbing the

right people the wrong way.

Fortunately, I’m unburdened by such fears

and I possess a fairly thick hide tanned by a

quarter century of reporting on public affairs.

The downside, of course, is that I often get

cast as the “bad guy.”

It’s a role I would accept more gleefully

if I earned as much as silver-screen bad

guys, such as Christopher Walken and Gary

Oldman. Heck, I’d even be happy with Danny

Trejo’s scale.

But (there’s that word again) I at least get

the satisfaction of helping start a dialogue that

can lead to positive change in this community

– particularly its downtown where change

is needed most.

Yes, downtown Augusta has improved

immensely in just the past several years, and

optimism about the central business district’s

future hasn’t been this high in nearly 50

years. However, past success and optimism

alone will not give Augusta the city center it


It takes action. And sometimes action

requires the pointing of fingers, the naming of

names and having uncomfortable discussions.

How can we combat the city’s litter problem

if we pretend it doesn’t exist? How can we

improve public infrastructure maintenance

if we don’t acknowledge the sidewalks are

cracked and weeds are growing in the medians?

How can we get the owners of eyesore

properties to do something – anything – if

we’re afraid to “call them out?”

The mission behind this magazine is to not

only report on important downtown issues; it

is to serve as a community conduit for action –

to push the needle on downtown progress and

advocate for solutions.

There would be no reason for this publication

to exist if Augusta’s urban core was

barreling toward progress with all hands on

the steering wheel and the gas pedal floored.

Clearly, that is not the case.

This publication’s point-of-view coverage

should not be mistaken as a repository

for civic negativity – there is plenty of that on

social media if that’s what you seek – nor as a

government-sanctioned visitor brochure.

Think of 1736 as downtown’s equal-opportunity

public-address system.

If this city’s urban core is progressing, we

will happily cheer it on. If it is stagnating,

we will prod it with a stick. If it is regressing,

we will demand those responsible be held


That’s what we do.

And if that makes you a little uneasy, you

can at least take comfort in knowing you’re

not the one who sometimes has to wear the

black hat.


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