JBA to Regency?
I feel strongly that our Mayor & Coliseum Authority misstepped (is that a word?) in the way they announced the proposal to build the new JBA at Regency Mall. I serve on the Downtown Advisory Panel (since 2015), and for the past ten years, I have been a champion for the music scene, for independently owned businesses, artists, and the like, in our central business district. New to the game, of course. Yet my conviction is strong.
y’all know my deal. I’m all downtown. All day. Broad Street, Sky City, Humanitree House, and Whiskey Bar are just a few of my favorite things…
I also live in South Augusta. Grew up here. And after the past 25 or so years of living in the metropolitan areas of North Augusta and Aiken, I’m back in the 30815. #worldwidetour
I’m no economist. I just play the piano. But I did take a class once, and I stayed at a Holiday Inn last year, so…. But even I grow tired of repeating the same line dance every 8 years. “Downtown is on the cusp of greatness” Three steps forward. Two steps back. Slide to the left. “We’re doing better than we’ve ever done before” Right. But so am I. Truth is, if I handled a few things differently, then I could be doing a lot better. Three steps forward. Two steps back. Slide to the right.
I want our entire community (downtown, #SOGO, Laney Walker – Bethlehem, Harrisburg, etc…) to begin to prosper. (& for Summerville, West Augusta, Midtown to continue to do so). But prosperity is not a black & white issue. There are so many gray areas. For me, it’s all gray.
I suggest that we take a little time, dig a little deeper, and seek understanding. That’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s been a challenge for me to look at this without bias. When I heard the announcement, I immediately said “it’s not gonna work…. it’s a last-ditch, half-assed effort to throw South Augusta a bone. It’d be cool, but if not executed properly, worst thing ever.”
The interesting thing about visionaries is that most won’t ‘catch it’ until decades/lifetimes later. Is JBA to Regency a visionary move? I don’t know. I’m just someone who wants to see us WIN. I want many voices to be heard – not just the loudest ones or even the ones that I hang out with on the weekends for beverages and merriment (er, I mean… work). I want us to paint with ALL of the colors.
I also know that this feels like (correction: suburban) flight… again. The same thing that happened decades ago when the stores left Broad Street in favor of the malls. And that’s hurtful. It’s tough to see that coming and just sit idly. Downtown deserves better. Augusta deserves better. And we are bigger than a single segment of our community.
So, yes. Act. Speak. But also listen.
*But (arena move or no) how about we just make DT attractive? How about we put street lights on Ellis & Jones? How about we cut rampant vegetation on overgrown lots – City property? How about we ‘encourage’ private owners to maintain what, I’m sure, are existing covenants for their property? How about we enforce that, so that our central business district can be something that ALL of our residents and visitors (not just the millennial flavor of the week) can appreciate? Thanks for the talk, David Walker.
The arena is gonna be the arena, wherever it is located. Let’s talk about the fact that, by the time many of the shows are over at JBA, all the downtown restaurants are closed. If you’re hungry, I hope you like Huddle House, with the hour wait and shitty service. When do we talk about THAT? Thank God for Knuckle Sandwiches.
If we are serious about courting millennials & tourists, then when do we talk about the fact that most everything downtown is closed on Sundays & Mondays? When are we going to get serious about looking at our Bible Belt ordinances and the assumptions that the bulk of our population is in church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings – that all of our families with children operate on the County school calendar .. or that our workforce operates on a traditional 9-to-5 workweek? When do we talk about public education in Richmond County? Are we really content to continue to graduate young people whose sole aspirations upon receipt of their diplomas is to get the hell out of Augusta?
I just think we need to be open and honest. I believe we need to ask ourselves some tough questions. Yes, ask the Mayor and the Coliseum Authority, for sure, about THEIR motivation for moving the JBA to Regency. Ask for the plan, request the projections – by all means. Please be reminded that half-drawn out plans and projects get approved all the time with a lot less scrutiny than this. We need to question OUR motivation as well. Why do we continue to do the same things and expect different results?
Personally, I’m not gung ho about the fact that we’re talking leasing and improving/maintaining someone else’s private property and then having to negotiate its purchase – haven’t been from the start. But we built the Reynolds Street parking deck on private property, and somehow, the apocalypse has not come. No flying monkeys yet, right?
Dig deep. Let’s keep talking. And listening.
(*I’m sure that this will require the cursory feasibility study, but whatever.)
Final note… because I hate to be the guy bringing attention to problems without solutions, I say… meet me at the Commissioners’ Breakfast. 2nd Saturdays at 9am at Jamestown Community Center. And let’s figure some shit out. Together.
[soundtrack to this post. “Lyne’s Joint” Russell Gunn]