Augusta Tomorrow Inc. and the Master Plan Oversight Task Force (planners and business representatives from Augusta and North Augusta) are excited to announce that ICON Architecture, Inc. has been chosen to undertake the development of a new Master Plan for the City of Augusta. ICON’s innovative efforts will help develop ways to bridge the Savannah River and connect the cities of Augusta and North Augusta. ICON Architecture, Inc. is a Boston, Massachusetts firm that has completed award winning plans nationally and internationally. Some of their most recent projects have included a redevelopment of an old port district in Jordan, a project in Casablanca, a master plan and design in Rochester, New York and several projects in Boston, Massachusetts.
The entire Augusta and North Augusta communities will be involved in the Master Plan process and an advisory Committee will be formed to help guide the planning process. The boundaries of the planning area will be developed with guidance from ICON. We expect the planning process to take approximately a year and, when completed, we will have a detailed implementation plan to guide our communities for the next 20 – 25 years.
HistoryEconomists consistently say without a vibrant city center a region cannot prosper. With the opening of Augusta Mall and Regency Mall in the late 1970s, an estimated 2 million square feet of retail left downtown and Augusta’s downtown became a shadow of its former self. The City of Augusta, under Mayor Ed McIntyre and Augusta Tomorrow, Inc. agreed to jointly commission the first Master Plan in a true “public/private partnership.” Each contributed half of the funding for the Plan. This first master plan emphasized development along the Savannah River. In 1995, the City of Augusta and Augusta Tomorrow, Inc. again entered into a public/private partnership to update the original master plan and start linking the riverfront to Broad Street. By 2000, both previous plans were substantially complete, and Augusta Tomorrow alone commissioned an update to build upon what the other plans had started. The Augusta Commission unanimously approved this plan in May 2001.
What have the Master Plans accomplished in the last 25 years?The following highlights some of the major accomplishments in the last 25 years:
• Breaching the levee so Augusta could take advantage of the Savannah River.
• Removing the CSX train tracks from the levee.
• Augusta Riverfront Center (120,000 square feet of office space).
• RiverWalk including Jessye Norman amphitheater.
• Two marinas: RiverWalk Marina at 5th Street and Riverfront (East Boundary) Marina with the Boathouse meeting facility.
• Marriott (formerly the Radisson) Riverfront Convention Center and Hotel along the RiverWalk.
• Marriott Suites Hotel (formerly Country Suites) along the RiverWalk.
• Morris Museum of Art.
• Laney-Walker (Penny Bank) Neighborhood Commercial Center.
• Augusta Richmond County Health Department – new facilities on Laney-Walker Blvd.
• Arts and Antique Gallery District on Broad Street.
• Springfield Village Park – Part 1 completed including two sculptures from preeminent American sculptor Richard Hunt.
• Georgia Golf Hall of Fames Botanical Gardens.
• Reynolds Street Parking Garage.
• Loft apartment development on upper floors of downtown buildings.
• National Science Center and Fort Discovery.
• Port Royal Condominiums.
• St. Paul’s Church Parish House on RiverWalk.
• Augusta Common.
• Lafayette Plaza (total renovation of 900 YMCA block on Broad Street).
• Watermark Condominium mixed-use development project on former City Pension Property (under contract).
• Bio-Medical and Bio-Technical Research Facilities – Bio-Business Center on Broad Street developed by the Georgia Medical Center Authority.
• New Augusta Public Library Headquarters – under construction.
• St. Sebastian Road Project – scheduled to receive bids in October 2007.
• Augusta Canal National Heritage Area interpretive center in Enterprise Mill and Petersburg Boat tours of Augusta Canal.
• Sutherland Mill mixed-use development (under development).
• Enterprise Mill redevelopment into mixed-use and condominium facility.
Economic Impact of Master Plan projects since 1982Richmond County has reaped the economic benefits of the above downtown projects. The economic impact of these projects since 1982 is over $2.6 billion.
Why do we need a new Master Plan NOW?It has been 25 years since Augusta first embarked on a new master plan. Most of the projects foreseen on that master plan have been completed. A master plan is a guide, and we need a new guide to take us another 20-25 years into the future - the way the original master plan did. For the first time in many years, developers are coming to Augusta and they are asking to see Augusta’s master plan. They want to know what Augusta envisions as the best use for a piece of property or building. The 1982 plan does not address these questions. A new master plan would address these questions and also help define better linkages to the residential areas of Laney Walker and Olde Town. A new master plan will strengthen and solidify the presence of the Medical College of Georgia, the other downtown hospitals and the medical community in Augusta’s city center. Plus, a master plan will assure the urban core continues developing in a well thought out manner, so it will continue to grow and thrive.
We all should be duly proud of how far we have come. The new planners will have to look at the previous 25 years of history. However, we propose that the previous master plan and updates be used only as history. What we need now is a fresh look at Augusta and where we want to be in the next 20-25 years. In the next quarter century, do we want the urban core to become a great center of commerce, culture, government and urban life and a special place for all citizens and visitors alike? How do we encourage urban development to assure downtown Augusta is a vibrant location for business and investment, a good place to live, a center for culture, arts and religion, a setting where historic resources are protected and appropriate new development is encouraged? What is the best way to assure the urban core remains an attractive place to live, work and play? How do we enhance the cooperation between the public and private sectors, stakeholders and the general public to assure the plan is a success? These are important questions that the master planners will have to address. In addition, the planners will be required to map out how each part of the plan will be tackled – from funding to what organizations need to pursue the projects to obstacles that will be encountered and how to overcome those obstacles. The planners will also be asked to define timetables for various projects and prioritize projects based on their knowledge of Augusta and how to keep Augustans energized about this new master plan.
How do we engage all constituents in a new master plan?The reason why the 1982 master plan and subsequent updates worked so well is because there was a true public/private partnership between the City of Augusta and the private sector. Only with a true partnership could the dramatic changes that we have seen in the last 25 years occur. It is now time to resurrect that partnership. All stakeholders need to be part of this master plan if it is going to succeed – both the public and private sectors. We need the Augusta City Commission as well as private stakeholders involved in the planning process. After all, the urban core is downtown to all of Augusta. To be successful this new master plan must involve all Commission districts. The planners will be charged with developing a plan with input from all districts in Augusta.
Since that first master plan 25 years ago, the city center boundaries have expanded, and it is time to take that into consideration. The 1982 plan took a leap from Broad Street to Laney-Walker Blvd. This new plan will take leaps south of Laney-Walker Blvd. to Central Augusta, West Augusta and North Augusta, and assure new plans are complimentary to both sides of the Savannah River.
Cost of Developing a New Master PlanFor this new master plan to be a truly public/private enterprise, then all entities must participate in the funding. To hire a nationally known company, that has extensive experience in historic urban core planning, will be expensive. It is anticipated that a new master plan of this depth will cost about $250,000. We would propose the cost be broken down as follows:
- Private sector – 50% of total cost
- Public sector – 50% of total cost
- City of Augusta – 37.5% (75%)
- City of North Augusta – 12.5% (25%)
Often Asked Questions about the Master Plan1. Question: Why do we need a new strategic master plan for Augusta’s downtown?
• The current master plan is 25 years old and most of the projects have been completed.
• The 1982 master plan guided downtown’s development for the last 25 years and we need a new strategic guide for the next 25 years - to take us to 2030.
2. Question: What will be the boundaries of the new master plan? How do we make sure ALL districts in Augusta, not just the ones that have direct contact with the urban core, have a say in the new master plan?
• The 1982 plan took a leap from Broad Street to Laney-Walker Blvd. This new plan will take leaps south of Laney-Walker Blvd. to Central Augusta, West Augusta and North Augusta.
• Hire a master planning firm that will talk to ALL districts in Augusta and make sure the urban core is developed in a way that ALL of Augusta will be proud to say that this urban core is their downtown.
3. Question: What did the old master plan and the 1995 and 2000 updates accomplish?
Answer: As a result of these projects, Richmond County has directly reaped the economic benefit of over $2.6 billion. Some of the projects completed are:
• Breaching the levee so Augusta could take advantage of the Savannah River.
• The RiverWalk and the Jessye Norman amphitheater on the RiverWalk
• Riverfront Convention Center and Hotel
• Laney-Walker Penny Bank Neighborhood Commercial Center
• Augusta Common
• Lafayette Plaza (total renovation of 900 YMCA block on Broad Street)
• Augusta Richmond County Health Department facilities on Laney-Walker Blvd.
• Bio-Business Center on Broad Street developed by the Georgia Medical Center Authority
• Reynolds Street Parking Garage
• Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. (ANIC) development in the Laney-Walker area.
4. Question: Who paid for the development that resulted from the master plan?
Answer: These projects were completed with the cooperation of the City of Augusta and private developers. Most often, the City of Augusta provided the infrastructure while private funding paid for the development.
5. Question: Who will pay for this new master plan?
Answer: Public sector (City of Augusta and City of North Augusta) will pay half of the cost of the plan and the private sector will pay the other half of the cost.