National award given for Laney Walker/Bethlehem development

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem revitalization efforts are picking up some momentum.

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem revitalization efforts are picking up some momentum. (WRDW-TV)

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Laney Walker/Bethlehem revitalization efforts are picking up some momentum.

They will actually break ground on more projects in the spring. The effort to remake this part of Augusta has been going so well that it was recently recognized nationally.

"It shows we're doing something right," said City Administrator Fred Russell.

Chester Wheeler and his team won the 2013 HUD Secretary's Opportunity and Empowerment Award. Only two awards were handed out nationwide.

''This was not a plan from the top down. The community was involved in monthly meetings to help us develop a plan," said the director of House and Community Development.

"The project had to be sustained for three years; it looks like we're building enough momentum to keep that project going," Russell said.

Some commissioners thought having an advisory committee would keep the project moving, but they didn't have enough votes to make it happen Tuesday night.

"The advisory committee is a separate thought. If the commission wants an advisory board, I have no problem with it," Wheeler said.

"Because of these award, we have opportunities that an advisory board could build into and plus expand and grow within," Russell said.

Even though they won an award, the project is far from finished. It will take them 50 years to turn the Laney Walker development around.

"This challenge that we have is not unique to the city of Augusta. It's in every major city of America," Wheeler said.

"We're changing the face of the way that neighborhood look, but to something familiar," Russell said.

The work to capture the nostalgia this neighborhood had continues. Commissioners learned that the old advisory board for the House was never dismantled.

The old board plans to hold a news conference on Thursday at 11 a.m.

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