Some in Cherry Tree worry 15th Street redevelopment will force them out of their homes

By: Justin Fabiano Email
By: Justin Fabiano Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hundreds packed T.W. Josey High's cafeteria to hear the city's plan when it comes to redeveloping 15th Street between Calhoun Expressway and the old Regency Mall. Now that TSPLOST passed, the Department of Transportation will widen 15th Street.

"I'm focused on providing pedestrian improvement projects to the area," said John Paul Stout, sustainable development manager for the city of Augusta.

His job is to make sure the DOT keeps pedestrians and cyclists in mind when they're expanding roads. He also says planning things like parks, green spaces and street lights during redevelopment will make the area safer and more attractive to businesses.

The Augusta Sustainable Development project first started as a study the city funded three years ago. Stout says that $500,000 investment is now paying off.

"That is proof of investment, a $500,000 investment paying off with a $1.8 million return in three years," Stout said.

The $1.8 million comes as a joint grant from DOT and Housing and Urban Development that's now being used to actually come up with redevelopment ideas.

"What we're trying to do is create blueprints to actually build the things," Stout explained. "You want a plan to be adaptive and receptive. I'm not a resident of 15th Street. I don't know what's best for 15th Street, but the folks of the community, we want them to drive the project."

Many in Josey's cafeteria Wednesday night do live on 15th Street. Some in Cherry Tree Crossing say they're scared they'll have to move.

"In order to build something up, you got to tear something down," one resident said.

Stout says he's heard no rumors like that and buying land is a DOT function, not the city's.

"When they're widening a road, they deal with land acquisition because it's a state road, but that doesn't mean they're in the business of buying people's property and shipping them out," Stout rebutted.

Some in Cherry Tree aren't buying it.

"It's going to be a long process, man, but we just look at is as 'don't lie to us,'" a resident said.

Augusta Sustainable Development will hold more public meetings at the end of September.

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