Augusta, GA (WJBF) –Construction challenges are slowing down a local development project. The Augusta Innovation Zone was initially listed to be finished by the end of 2017; however, founders tell NewsChannel 6, it is taking longer than expected.
Their website lays out their plan to renovate the old Woolworth building at the corner of 8th and Broad Street in Downtown Augusta. Their goal is to turn the spot into a hub for millennials. They described turning the bottom floor into a collaborative workspace and incubator for start-ups. With the top floor, they wanted to create a swanky restaurant and bar.
Noura Gordon was born and raised in downtown Augusta. “I mean all this was just poppin!” She says as she points to Broad Street with a big smile on her face. Gordon has memories of going to the old Woolworth building as a kid.
“After all these years, I remember going to Woolworth, sitting in there, having a slushy, having some of their great fried chicken. The people in there were amazing!” Gordon reminisces.
She still lives and works downtown at Pyramid Music. She is also a DJ and often spins at downtown restaurant Nacho Mamas. She is the daughter of Augusta icon, Flash Gordon, so music and Augusta history undoubtedly course through her veins.
With strong certainty in her voice, Gordon says she would go to the kind of place the Augusta Innovation Zone founders describe.
“Oh definitely,” Gordon nods. “Augusta needs something like that and it would probably bring even more potential people that want to get businesses and open up stuff down here.”
The Augusta Innovation Zone was the joint brain-child of 6 people—John Cates, Tommy Wafford, Deke Copenhaver, Tom Patterson, George Claussen and Virginia Claussen.
Their 2017-style game plan has proven difficult for the 72-year-old building says co-founder and former Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
“We’re still meeting with the architects and everything, trying to develop a plan that’s cost effective to bring the building forward,” Copenhaver describes. “Things have slowed down a little bit, but we are still focused on doing the Augusta Innovation zone.”
NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne also spoke to co-founder Tom Patterson. He said the group is still very excited about the project. Patterson says the dream is still alive, but there are some unknowns with regard to when and how they will execute it.
The old Woolworth building was built in 1945 at the corner of 8th and Broad Street. Historic Augusta named it as one of their Endangered Properties in 2015. Historic Augusta’s Preservation Services Director, Robyn Anderson says they have been helping with the renovation. There are certain tax credits investors can acquire when re-doing an old building like this one. Historic Augusta helps developers navigate those incentives and the challenges of restoring historic buildings.
“[The Woolworth Building] has some amazing architectural features both on the outside and on the inside and so we’ve been working with all the different parties interested in rehabilitating it while retaining that amazing architecture.” Anderson says this is a task that is both challenging and expensive.
Noura Gordon says it is important to keep the character of the historic building that lives in her childhood memories.