UPDATED ON 6: Historic Neighborhood Revitalization Loan Denied F - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

UPDATED ON 6: Historic Neighborhood Revitalization Loan Denied For Now

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Augusta, GA -

 

***UPDATED at 6:04 P.M. on Tuesday, September 3rd***

The vote was supposed to happen Tuesday night on whether to grant a $2.5 million loan to continue revitalization of two historic Augusta neighborhoods.

That vote did not happen, as a substitute motion was made to task Augusta Housing and Community Development Department director Chester Wheeler to provide more answers to questions some Augusta Commissioners had about the loan and the revitalization project.

So, that loan was not approved and the loan will not be approved until Wheeler provides answers to those questions that satisfy Commissioners.

Our Mike Miller will have more on this story coming up during our Tuesday night 11:00 p.m. newscast.

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***POSTED at 5:26 P.M. on Tuesday, September 3rd***

When Chris Norman and his wife decided to plant their roots, downtown Augusta wasn't on their list of desired grounds. "Actually, we thought about building elsewhere, but once we did the walk-in with the realtor...from that point on, it was a no-brainer this is the place I want to be," he says.

The Normans have become part of a wave of new homeowners flowing into the Laney Walker and Bethlehem neighbors as part of the city's revitalization effort.

Three years ago, the Augusta-Richmond County bonded $8 million for the work, and more that $2 million have been spent on consulting and marketing. Now, the Augusta Housing and Community Development Department has gone before Augusta Commissioners asking for a $2.5 million loan to continue the project. But, some Commissioners may shut the door on giving more money.

"I think we need to follow the money, check everything out, and see if they are deserving of money. We'll see how much. Just to rubber stamp $2.5 million like it's $5.5 [million], we're not going to do that, I'm not," says Commissioner Grady Smith.

But, homeowner Frederick Neely says it's an investment that will pay for itself many times over. "That's all it is, is a start for others to pick up and see that people are buying these houses. There is a demand to live downtown and then once the private industry comes and sees that, they pick where they left off then they can turn a profit on it," he says.

The revitalization is being paid through a five-year hotel/motel tax. The city won't be eligible to issue more bonds for construction, backed by the tax, until 2015.

For people who live in the area, the loan would help continue construction that is bringing life to an area that had been left for dead.

"If you're down here on a Sunday evening, there are people just driving slowly looking at houses, pointing, and stopping. They want to know, "is this Pine Street? The old Pine Street?' I'm like, "yes, ma'am. This is the old Pine Street, but it's the new Pine Street," Norman says.

Commissioners are schedule to vote on the loan Tuesday night. We have a crew at the Commission meeting and we will give you the updates when we get them. We'll update you as they send information from that meeting back to the newsroom.

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