Commission Heads Back To Drawing Board On Downtown Redevelopment - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Commission Heads Back To Drawing Board On Downtown Redevelopment Plan

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Augusta, GA -

City Administrator Fred Russell said it was just a proposal to pay for the renovations of the Augusta Municipal Building, but this plan hit a brick wall.

"Nothing's perfect, George, doing these types of things is like making sausage. You don't like to watch it getting done, but at the end of the day you end of with a good product.

What was presented was an Urban Redevelopment Plan that designated more than 500 acres downtown as a "slum". 

"That's what I'm primarily concerned about is the designation, the impact it will have on residents, and the impact it will have on businesses it will have in Richmond County," says Commissioner Bill Fennoy.

City lawyers said the "slum area" designation could be removed from official documents, but it's in state law and would allow the city to issue bonds tax-free bonds for renovating the Municipal Building.

"There is not a real need for 500 acres or more of designation for this community to be designated a slum or anything else," says Commissioner Alvin Mason.

What city leaders proposed is a much smaller redevelopment area, one that could include just the Municipal Building.

"My recommendation would be to do just this one block. Okay, now I understand there's supposed to be additional meetings and other information that hasn't been provided to the public. I guess we'll be apprised at that time," says Commissioner Bill Lockett.

City lawyers said the reason the large Redevelopment Area was proposed was to help other potential projects with possible tax breaks, and developments are on the table that could create 400 new jobs.

"You all are aware, for a couple of years, we've been working on a hotel site at the (Augusta) Common, and that's getting closer and closer," says Downtown Development Authority Director Margaret Woodard.

"Just need to find out about these additional things that maybe pending. If it's beneficial to the city as a whole, maybe it will be a block or a few acres, but certainly it will not be close to the 500 acres that we're talking about," said Commissioner Mason.

The main reason for the Urban Redevelopment Area is that it will save the city $2 million to $3 million over the life of the bonds for the Municipal Building, and the city doesn't have to go on record calling it a "slum area".

City lawyers said, instead of instead of the phrase "slum area", the official documents could cite the state code instead.

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