Only on 12: Mayor talks Miller Theater revamp, Starbucks downtown investment

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- What do Starbucks, the Augusta Symphony and the mayor have in common? They all are working to bring new life to downtown Augusta.

Have you heard? A revitalized concert hall is coming to a neighborhood near you.

"We're on the move," said Dr. Mieko Di Sano. "We're getting our construction manager."

Di Sano took us inside the historic Miller Theater for a look at what's to come.

"We'll have a movie screen," Di Sano said. "We'll have plenty of opportunities for lots of shows here."

The talk of revving up the theater district has the mayor eying the old chamber building just down from the Miller.

"It is a very funky design," said Mayor Deke Copenhaver. "But for a creative use, it is the perfect building."

The mayor wants a one-stop shop Augusta Regional Collaboration Center with all the region's players in one location.

"The medical community, the nuclear community, the arts community," said Di Sano. "[With] everybody working together to coordinate this effort downtown, it can get done, and it can get done quickly."

The building will need some work. The city recently put the property up for bid, but the mayor notes $100,000 has already been set aside for his ARC Center. The mayor says the building should remain in the city's hands because that initial investment is already sparking private investment.

"That also got a private sector match from a local donor of $100,000 along with Starbucks putting $200,000 into the project." Copenhaver said.

Copenhaver is likely referencing a July Starbucks groundbreaking in which Starbucks pledged $200,000 for local community programs.

"We're investing money to make sure we are a good neighbor." said Executive Vice President Peter Gibbons at the time. "We are growing quite fast and so this was a great opportunity to bring jobs back to America and build a new manufacturing facility."

"All of those things revitalize an area," Di Sano said. "Because, like me, they want to go to a local coffee shop or go to a local bar down the street."

The arts community and the mayor are on the same sheet of music when it comes to the new center.

"Because those people will be the ones to engage downtown and really build downtown," Di Sano said.

The mayor will take this idea to the Augusta Commission next Tuesday. The symphony also starts interviews for a construction manager next week.

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