UPDATE| TIA projects will help with stormwater issues downtown

Published: Nov. 13, 2016 at 11:35 PM EST
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News 12 NBC 26 @ 6:00 / Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Downtown Augusta is getting a whole new look. It's thanks to your transportation sales tax dollars. That money is helping seven streets downtown get new infrastructure and more.

Downtown Augusta is ready for a few upgrades.

"Downtown, of course you know our infrastructure is in horrible shape," Engineering Services Director Abie Ladson said.

But hopefully it won't be the case for much longer. The TIA downtown improvement drawings show the first example of what downtown could be.

"It's street furniture, landscaping, new sidewalks, new street paving, bike lanes, informational kiosks for tours, and those kinds of things as well," Gary Warner with Cooper Carry said.

Cooper Carry is the architecture company designing the TIA projects for downtown. The money will cover 5th, 6th, 9th, 13th, Broad, Telfair, and Greene Streets.

Abie Ladson, says there are a lot of projects that need to be done.

"Our sidewalks, curb and gutters, street lights in certain areas, and our signals," he said.

Not to mention stormwate projects.

"It's going to help our stormwater out, it's also going to help our water quality, so you're kind of killing two birds with one stone," Ladson said.

It will fix more than the pipes, there's a wide range of projects, from parking, to walking paths, and landscaping.

"The smallest budget we've seen I think is three million dollars, and the biggest street is Broad Street I think is 25 million dollars," Warner said.

Ladson says there are more than 100 million dollars in the TIA fund and it has to be spent.

"They all have their importance, and they have to be done by law through TIA, they have to be done," he said.

Which means these aren't just plans, they're a promise of Augusta's future.

"And we're actually getting construction funds, so what you see here today will happen it's not just a plan," Ladson said.

Cooper Carry will be presenting three more streets later. After these meetings with the public, they'll pick the plans and take them to engineering. From there the plans will go to the commission. You'll start seeing construction starting in 2018 through 2020.

News 12 First at Five/ Monday, Nov. 14, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Whether you're going downtown to eat, walk, or hang out at the Common, you've probably run into problems trying to find parking. There are a few TIA plans up for discussion that could make parking easier.

Those parking wells in the medians of downtown were put in place in 1977. A lot of folks say they're out of date, but they could be gone soon.

Most businesses agree parking downtown is a problem.

"If it's busy down here, if any event is going on, it's very hard to find parking," Alexia Auston with K's Wings said.

"If any of our employees come and park over here, even in the median, there's no spots for our customers to park," Patricia Slagle with Flower's on Broad said.

The good news is there is a solution in the works. Your TIA tax dollars are paying for Downtown Improvement Projects, one of them is a new parking plan.

New plans would make the parking wells are a thing of the past. Instead of these, you could see more parallel parking and green space.

"The green spaces were nice at first the little wells were neat, but they're not very functional," Slagle said.

There are two possibilities for new plans. One would add 45 spaces from 4th Street down to 13th Street. There are currently 825 spots, there would be 870. The parallel spots would be next to bike lanes along the sidewalks.

"When I was a young girl downtown we had double parking on both sides and along each side, parallel parking. And it worked great!" Slagle said.

Concept two actually shows about a hundred fewer spots, changing from 820 spots to 722. Instead, you would see more things like Biergartens, buffered bike lanes, and more park space.

"I mean green spaces are nice but we still need parking," Auston said.

"We want it to be beautiful and we want people to come here. But if people come here and there's no place to park, what have you done?" Slagle said.

What they want to see is a balance.

"I think they can also find someway to make it look really neat downtown and unique. I think that's what we're going to have to do to bring people downtown," she said.

Beauty to bring more people downtown, but a place to park so they can stay and see it.

The plans go in front of the Augusta Chamber on Monday. There are public input meetings on the plans on Tuesday Nov. 15, 2016 at 6 p.m. at the Julian Smith BBQ Pit. There's another public input meeting on Wednesday Nov. 16, 2016 at 6 p.m. at the Linda W. Beazley Community Room in the municipal building.

The TIA plans cover more than just parking. They also look at the James Brown Plaza, archways, and more on multiple streets throughout downtown.

News 12 NBC 26 / November 13, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Another plan to improve downtown Augusta is on the table. This one is funded by your TIA dollars.

It's a stigma that Downtown Augusta can't seem to escape.

"You can go from a really nice spot where you have these really, really cool craft stores and a nice place to eat, and then all of a sudden, it's like you're walking into a slum," said David Hayes.

With vacant buildings, it's not hard to see why some people say there's room for improvements.

"I feel like all these buildings could be redone," said Hannah Hillman.

"They're not doing anything with them. They're just sitting there for storage," said Hayes.

David Hayes has worked downtown for the last three years.

"I see a lot of empty space with a lot of potential that's just not being used the way it should be," said Hayes.

Something the city of Augusta plans to change with the help of the Transportation Investment Act, a multi-million dollar improvement plan. Now, they have the pictures to go along with it.

"I would spend more money on Broad street because Broad Street is the heart of downtown Augusta," said Hayes.

And that's where a big portion of the improvements are focused. Areas like lighting, landscaping, and walkways that make downtown more pedestrian friendly. They also include better parking options.

"It's really tough to park and sometimes you have to park over on Ellis," explained Hillman, "Which is not necessarily where you want to walk by yourself at night."

The renderings show plans to eliminate parking on the median for on-street parking with curbs that drain storm water.

"It's constantly flooding. You don't really see it right up here, but the more you get down towards like into Olde Town and even on 5th Street, it's constantly flooding," said Hayes.

A big transformation that could soon be a new reality.

Consultants for these projects are holding hearing this week on Tuesday and Wednesday. They're asking for public input on the renderings before finalizing them.