Officials and business owners say downtown Augusta set to boom

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October 26, 2006

It's one of the oldest and most familiar parts of town...but with renovation and the promise of new construction, many people are hoping the heart of your city will climb back to its former glory.

Downtown Augusta.

We tend to take it for granted.

But with new condos on the way, and rumors of other big development, instead of dying out, word on these streets is that downtown is on the brink of a boom. With big development plans in place, many are saying this part of town is now poised for progress.

It's an old part of town that many say is on the brink of a new beginning

"Downtown Augusta is getting ready to boom again," Downtown Development Authority chairperson Margaret Woodard told News 12. "You're going to see it like it was in the early 70's."

The heart of the city may have found an economic engine.

"We seem to be catching up, and we're catching up a little but quicker than we were a couple of years ago," said Terry Brogan, co-owner of the Soul Bar.

The major condo project on Reynolds Street is said to be the big catalyst for redevelopment, and the third level Canal project is also expected to rebuild a once neglected area.

And when you add in possibilities of a Kroc center and a new stadium from the Iron Man, you won't find many complaining.

"We need it," said David Hutchin. "It's part of a vibrant economy to have a good downtown where there are a lot of businesses, services."

Hutchin not only lives downtown, but also owns a book store on Broad Street. He says a big part of redevelopment is not just getting businesses, but people to live downtown.

"If there's a loft apartment available, it goes like that, because there are a lot of people who would move downtown just like it is right now," Hutchin said. "If you really want to make downtown attractive, for living, you have to clean it up."

And while the DDA says there are dozens of businesses looking to relocate downtown right now, some say they'll wait to see how big this so-called boom really is.

"Hearing the talk, downtown is going to take off," Hutchin said. "Downtown is going to take off. It hasn't taken off yet. We have a lot of work to do."

"I'm curious, I'm curious," Brogan said.

A lot of people are curious. We spoke to lots of folks downtown today, and nearly everyone says safety is an issue that will have to be addressed before downtown can reach its full potential.

Downtown Commissioner Betty Beard tells News 12 that starting this month, the East Boundary area in downtown will see improvements like new lighting, sidewalks, and shrubbery.