Out with the old, in the with the new in developing downtown Augusta

Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Many people see developing the old buildings, like the church, make downtown more marketable and enjoyable.

The real estate signs may be easier to see than the stores. And that’s a good sign for what’s in store for our downtown area.

“We don’t want to continue to see dilapidated buildings downtown, and this is an iconic building with great architecture,” Joe Edge, president of Sherman & Hemstreet Real Estate, said.

Edge is renovating the historic Old First Baptist Church. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded here. But for years, it’s been a home for the homeless -- and even plants.

“We want to fix the dome, which has been an eyesore on the Augusta skyline for years,” Edge explained.

Their plan: to fix the outside first, and then develop the back into office space and apartments.

Some business leaders say it’s a welcome change. Several years ago, we counted dozens of empty buildings along Broad Street.

“I don’t think it’s gone up; I think if anything it’s stayed the same.”

Margaret Woodard, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority says some buildings have been vacant for 15 or 20 years, with no reason for the owners to sell.

“Some cities have an empty building tax, and empty buildings are taxed more than ones that are developed,” she explained.

And tax incentives are helping with new development. Without a historic tax credit, the Old First Baptist Church wouldn’t have been bought.

New restaurants are on their way too. Taco Cat and a ramen restaurant will go here.

“There’s too many positive things happening downtown for growth to just stop or go in the other direction,” Edge said.

News 12 spoke with the owner of Taco Cat. He also owns Frog Hollow and Farmhaus as well. He says he would love to see more help from code enforcement, to get some of these empty buildings in better shape.

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