If you are new to the CSRA (Central Savannah River Area) or are moving within the region, I hope you visit the renaissance on Broad Street, thanks to the passion and investment of many business owners and real estate developers.
Our business publication has closely followed the growth since the beginning of 2017. By 2018, downtown Augusta will feature new restaurants, retail options and the building of three new hotels to provide beds and meeting space for the influx of new business coming to Augusta.
Sparking the onslaught of new development was the announcement in early 2017 of an investment by the State of Georgia and Augusta University into a $50 million cyber training center to be built at the Augusta Riverfront Campus at the site of the closed Golf and Gardens.
“Cybersecurity is especially important now that cybercrime is bigger than the global black market for marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined,” Deal said at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast.
Sometime in 2018 the campus will be complete.
Our managing editor Amanda King walked up and down Broad Street and found developers willing to re-invest—including the Usry family, known for its “Fat Man’s” brand of shopping decades ago to its modern day Fat Man’s Café and Catering in re-developed Enterprise Mill—just a mile from the heart of downtown Augusta.
“Since 1948, we’ve been committed to downtown Augusta, said VP of Operations and Development, Havird Usry. “I think this just furthers our commitment to the growth and progression of downtown.” The family purchased the buildings at 1006 and 1008 Broad Street, she told King.
The 1008 property has been leased to New York High Style for the last 38 years. The men’s clothing store will continue business, although Usry plans to renovate 1006 Broad and bring up it up to code and move New York High Style to that location. The 1008 property will then be renovated for a restaurant that will be owned and operated by Usry and his father, Brad Usry. “It’s completely out of the box,” he said.
Another prominent restaurateur, Sean Wight is set to open his 4th downtown Augusta restaurant in 2017—a Mexican eatery at 12th and Ellis streets. Wight also runs Farmhaus, Craft and Vine, and Frog Hollow Tavern, three unique restaurants.
Downtown Augusta business owner Fred Daitch re-invested about $200,000 in renovating the Whistle Stop Café across the street from the Augusta Municipal Building on Greene Street. He found an accomplished chef, Liz Sanderson to lease the building. Her Olde Town Diner is open weekdays for breakfast until dinner and 24 hours a day all weekend.
Broad Street’s bustling crowd needs a place to relax after hours of enjoying live music, street entertainment, art galleries and the many venues of concerts and plays Downtown Augusta has to offer. One project that will help is the $23 Million restoration of the Miller Theater. That project, now under the watchful eye of Symphony Orchestra Augusta, is expected to bring in spectators to the 1200 seat venue in late 2017– like moths to a flame of art and culture.
“I think locals truly support local business, and it’s only going to get better as we bring the options down here,” Usry said. “It all starts with bars and restaurants. Once you bring in the hospitality, that’s when you bring in the retail and residential.”
In addition to the retail and restaurant space that Usry purchased, the chef also purchased the 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment above the adjacent spaces. He’ll renovate and offer two smaller spaces for rent. Down the street, the Marion Building was under contract and is expected to serve as residential space.
The centrally located JB White Building at 9th and Broad was 80 percent occupied in early 2017, with many floor plans completely sold out. At press time, the building still had one- and two-bedroom apartments available, ideal for single residents or small families who wish to live downtown and walk to venues.
An area of 5th and Reynolds is supposed to be the next hotbed for downtown living space for the growing Millennial population.
If you’re new to the CSRA, discover downtown Augusta. If it’s been awhile re-discover it. You’ll be glad you did.