Language And Land Out Of Urban Redevelopment Area Plan - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Language And Land Out Of Urban Redevelopment Area Plan

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Augusta, GA -

The Depot property on Reynolds Street, Port Royal, and the James Brown Arena are in, and the term referring to downtown Augusta as a "slum area" is now out.

"Obviously, some members of the public and some members of our downtown community didn't like that designation. I knew cooler heads would ultimately prevail and they did in yesterday's vote," says Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

Commissioners voted not only to remove the phrase "slum area" from the Urban Redevelopment Plan, but also reduce it from 600 acres to just 7 properties.

The main purpose of the Urban Redevelopment Plan is to issue $26 million in tax-free bonds for renovations to the Augusta Municipal Building, but the original plan called for nearly 600 acres of the Central Business District to be included.

"They narrowed it down to basically property we own, and one private piece of property, so they narrowed it substantially," says City Administrator Fred Russell.

The one private piece is Fort Discovery, where there are negotiations underway to bring in 400 jobs.

"We have been looking at several different businesses that could go into that site, so once again, this just gives us another tool to help us redevelop that site," says Mayor Copenhaver.

Other sites to be included in the area is the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium, and officials say the ability to issue tax-free bonds could be a big help keeping up the old buildings

"We get so much less money from the city than we used to, so there's a lot of money we don't have access to, like we used to. Tax-free bonds would be nice," says Augusta Coliseum Authority member Hap Harris.

Augusta wants to redevelopment downtown and officials believe the Urban Redevelopment Area plan will help that, but officials say that just because a half dozen sites were selected to be included in it doesn't guarantee new projects are on the way to those sites.

"The sites that we specifically designated have the highest potential for economic development, that's why we did them," says Copenhaver.

Commissioners must still give final approval to the made-over plan as well as hold a public hearing.

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