Lee Epstein, attorney and land use planner working for sustainability in the mid-Atlantic region, recently discussed Augusta’s master plan for revitalization, on the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Staff Blog. Below is a summary and highlight of the key points covered.
The city of Augusta has many faces: some see the sweet green golf courses with fiendish sand traps, while others see it as their home, a heart of the South and third-largest city in the state.
Distressingly, the city has begun to lose its luster, in tune with many other great cities in the United States. These cities are fading due to a combination of empty downtown areas and an increase in suburban sprawl.
The neighborhoods could definitely do with some renovation. Not all is lost, however; the Augusta Sustainable Development Implementation Program has come up with intensive plans to revitalize this old Southern belle of a city.
The Augusta Sustainable Development Implementation Program (ASDIP) has paired up with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to use one of their challenge grants to revitalize Augusta and its empty neighborhoods. The project’s main goal is to upgrade Augusta, injecting sustainable economic development, enhanced transportation, and improved neighborhoods to bring the city back to life. The program is focused on results, not just plans.
They hope to work wonders on Downtown Augusta – ranging from the 4.5 mile long Dean’s Bridge Road, to the Regency Mall and through the neighborhoods near the rail yards. Like many malls in America, Regency Mall slowly faded and then died, becoming an abandoned relic. With the ASDIP program in place, it would become a village center, while the neighborhoods leading to the mall would offer the basic amenities needed to sustain a bustling community. These would include farmer’s markets, grocery stores, medical clinics, and small restaurants – all the ingredients needed to create a successful neighborhood. During the rebuilding process, they will also add some mixed-unit and higher density housing, though older neighborhoods will likely remain untouched.
Another large focus of the project would be transportation. Without accessibility, the revitalized sections would never flourish. Many elderly or mid-to-lower income residents don’t have cars or do not drive, so a renewed public transport system will be required to ferry them to the rejuvenated sections of Augusta. The program will also create better walking areas, with repaved sidewalks and more sitting areas in shady sections, as well as pedestrian walkways and crossing areas. Bike lanes will also be implemented and made safer.
The hub of the transport reform would be a new transit center to replace an old bus transfer station. At the same time, a nearby building will be rebuilt to become a pedestrian shopping and commercial village.
They hope to improve the number of parks and playgrounds, as well as renew previously existing ones. The program looks to acquire more land for public parks in strategic neighborhood locations, as well as improve storm water management and other green projects. The public areas would be enriched by public art and mixed-use centers for everyone, creating a welcoming, friendly neighborhood feeling.
Most impressively, this project has been meticulously planned for and articulated, with required costs enumerated and accounted for. Specific proposals have also been evaluated, together with potential funding sources – both public and private. The Augusta Sustainable Development Implementation Program members appear to have spared no effort to make this program successful, identifying all possible ways of fulfilling their plans for urban development as well as managing vacant housing. All in all, this project stands to be one of Augusta’s best chances for revitalization – restoring its former glory as well as propelling it towards the future.