Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Outsider

It seems some feathers are ruffled from my first post on the new and only independent voice of downtown Augusta! Why are people so offended with good news and praise for the real “doers” who are making great things happen? I guess that’s what happens when you are in the fray!

The mean spirited rag called my column a “fawning imitation”! I have always been one to make lemonade out of lemons so the way I look at it is BAD PUBLICITY IS FREE PUBLICITY! I have been so busy answering my fan mail…thanks to everyone for your positive feedback!

In addition, I have received several posts from some dude named “coco” asking if I was writing about his message board.

No “coco”, I was not talking about you!

Why would I?

Sorry man, but who the heck are you?

First of all I write about people I know personally and second of all, about those who are making a difference…for the better.

Like Justin Anderson, owner of the new theater off Broad, Le Chat Noir. Now here is gentlemen, who like Deke and Julian, has invested money in our downtown and restored the old Capri Theater. Not only is the finished product “top gun”, but so are the plays and musical performances. It is a grown up place and non-smoking to boot. If you have not been, please visit this new jewel on the corner of 8th Street & Ellis.

Rick Toole
of Toole Engineering has purchased the building on the north side of Broad at 10th. Currently an elevator shaft is being constructed on the exterior of the bldg. and interior improvements are underway and soon he will relocate his engineering firm there. Thanks Rick for your investment and your true commitment to downtown Augusta. You have “staying power” as well.

Congratulations Flash Gordon, new director of the James Brown Arena, for a fun-filled family evening with the Harlem Globetrotters. Not only is Flash investing his time and efforts in booking class acts at the arena and bringing folks downtown, he has invested a lot of sweat equity in the downtown business he owns, Pyramid Records.

Hats off to the new business association, Downtown Augusta Alliance or DA squared. This enthusiastic group plans to work with the Downtown Development Authority to promote downtown. New marketing campaigns and events are in the planning phases.
Another great example of movers and shakers who take responsibility for their individual successes…doers not talkers.

And finally, thank you Damon Cline for the great new business section in the Monday Augusta Chronicle. It is so refreshing to hear the good things that are going on in the area. I actually display your publication on my coffee table for guests to see.

And that mean spirited rag is used to line my kitty litter box.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Revival - be a part of the action

revival - noun
restoration to life, consciousness, vigor, strength.
restoration to use, the revival of old customs.
a new production of an old play.the state of being revived.

There is a revival going on in Downtown Augusta. I recently replied to a web site blog requesting information on a "unique and different" shopping experience in our community. This person obviously has not been to Downtown Augusta in a while. I invited them to visit our great district and to "explore" the possibilities. Restaurants, galleries, shops, entertainment opportunities not to mention the natural beauty of the Savannah River and our riverwalk (BONUS). For those of us that live work and play downtown - it comes easy. For those on the outside looking in it can be a daunting assignment - "what is there to do downtown?"

Our task as stakeholders, business owners and employees in the district (I'm told there are some 17,000 of us on a daily basis) is to educate - promote - invite and work together to build our community. Cross promote whenever possible. Partner with other businesses in the district to create a cohesive message. This will burn a lasting positive impression on anyone who visits the district. They will want to come back and possibly get involved themselves or bring a friend next time they come in to your establishment.

As the saying goes "wasn't that easy?"

Revival - it's a lifestyle...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Artist Overstreet making it BIG

Local Augustan Baker Overstreet has taken NY by storm with his new exhibition at Fredericks & Freiser Gallery in Chelsea! But that is just a small measure of his success. The scoop is Charles Saatchi came in and bought up half of the exhibition! Check out www.saatchi/ Mr. Overstreet is on his his way, and work is off to London!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Outsider

I am just as guilty as the next person who from time to time checks out forums and blogs on the internet instead of doing what I am getting paid for. At least I have a job.

One tasteless message board is particularly sad. A small group of middle-aged musicians, who post their own articles or quotes from a mean spirited rag, is just an example of the apathy and low self-esteem that plagues downtown Augusta.

And what about a group who meets every Tuesday morning that moans and groans about flower pots and kiosks? Are we to let these troubled few who talk and do nothing continue set the tone for downtown?

No, it is time for these idle few to step aside and let visionary movers and shakers set the new course for downtown Augusta. While the new regime is constantly criticized by the press it is because they are rolling up their shirt sleeves and doing something. They have learned through experience that talk is cheap. And they have better things to do then to respond to message boards.

Let’s start with our bright young mayor, Deke Copenhaver, who in the past year, has brought 1700 jobs to the Augusta area and an exciting condominium project on the river at the old train depot. He should be applauded for investing in the old Commerce Bldg on Broad Street. We are all familiar with the old saying, “put your money where your mouth is?” Deke has.

And so has new Downtown Development Chairman, Julian Roberts. Yes, he is part-owner of the JB White’s Building and absolutely no one has applauded him for the new building facade and other improvements that will pave the way for future retail space and condominiums. Julian has staying power too. He has served on the DDA Board since 2000 and is still an eternal optimist.

Chris Altweit, owner of New Moon Cafe is a breath of fresh air to downtown Augusta because she gets involved. She saw the potential and opened a second location here and continues to operate in Aiken as well. She donates proceeds to a local charity each month and donates her precious time as well. She is a new committee member for the Saturday Market on Broad and she realizes that committee members need to contribute, not talk.

David Hutcheson, owner of the Book Tavern is one to watch as well. He just does not give up! Like Julian, he has staying power. He took a leap of faith and moved his book store to Artist’s Row instead of closing shop for good when his shop did not fare well on 8th street. He attends meetings. He is involved. He is open seven days a week. And he never tires of speaking of the good things happening in downtown Augusta.

These are just a few of the new folks who are making a difference and you will hear more about others in the weeks to come. These are people who have a vested interest in the future of our downtown and work with not against other organizations such as the Downtown Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce.

And we should applaud them.

Loft Living in Downtown Augusta

Loft living in Augusta? Can it be done?

You bet! It's already underway...

First let's go over the basics:

Where did this all get started and what's all the buzz about?

Loft living began in the 19Th Century in Paris, France, those crazy Parisians. Artists of the day required large spaces to create their artwork and found refuge in abandoned warehouses. Let the "loft" lifestyle begin. It wasn't until the 20Th Century that it became a trend in the United States. Reclaimed warehouse and industrial spaces started being converted to living quarters in New York and Boston near shipping docks. The loft drive was on in the U.S.. Soon major cities across the country started seeing the "benefits" of inner city/urban living. Residents could now live, work and play in districts that were once neglected and run down. The loft movement started driving small scale economies in once blighted areas. Residents had living needs and soon retailers, restaurateurs, gallery owners and service sector businesses started springing up. Visionary investors began to reclaim and convert spaces that where once eye sores, turning districts 180 degrees in to profitable situations. All while re-building a sense of "community" and fighting against SUB-urban sprawl. Sound familiar? Live-Work-Play.

So what is a loft anyway?

Not everyone agrees on what exactly a loft is. Purists argue that that lofts only refer to factories or plants that have been converted into residences. Required accents in these homes include huge windows, beams or columns supporting 16-foot ceilings, and a maple or concrete floor. Newer developers believe that lofts refer to any apartments that fit the principles of loft design: open layouts, large windows, and unique finishes in an urban location.
Newer developers believe that lofts refer to any apartments that fit the principles of loft design: open layouts, large windows, and unique finishes in an urban location. These discrepancies have led to new terminology, such as new loft, fake loft, soft loft, loft-inspired, mezzanine suites, "true" lofts, and loft-influenced. Lofts are generally decorated in a minimalist style with high ceilings and soaring views of the city skyline.

The cities with the biggest percentage of downtown growth in the 1990s were Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Chattanooga, San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle.

Many cities across the United States are reclaiming empty spaces and converting them in to modern loft living spaces. Here in Augusta we currently have just under 200 such spaces in the downtown district with over 300 more available for conversion. This is a great invitation to get involved! Live-Work-Play.

Who are these "loft dweller" people anyway?

Well, just about anyone that wants to be a part of their community. Loft dwellers look for conveniences. They yearn for the arts. They are active in their communities and like to meet new people. Modern loft dwellers are predominately people seeking cultural opportunities (performing arts, art events, community togetherness) near their place of residence. They have a minimalist home decorating lifestyle with contemporary fashion sense. Most are active in their community and very much part of the fabric that binds their district. Live-Work-Play.

In Augusta, the downtown district provides all of the ingredients to become a tremendous "loft" community. There are many cultural activities going on in the district with more planned. Restaurants and galleries are easily accessible, the night life is very strong, and you can get involved in just about any community effort. Live-Work-Play.

To get a taste of Loft Living in Downtown Augusta, attend the upcoming Loft Tour. The tour will take place the weekend of May 5. The event is sponsored by the Historic Preservation Committee and is a great way to check it out yourself.

Large space, minimalist decorating and connectivity to your community.


What a lifestyle.


A True Progressive City....with Great Potential

A progressive city.... with great potential.... a dynamic and exciting “Downtown Augusta”….

Many people have had visions for our downtown. Most notable over the past 20 years are 2 former Mayors, the late Charles DeVaney and the late Ed McIntyre.

Each had visions of a great city and an even greater downtown. These gentlemen knew the importance of growing our downtown and maintaining a prosperous central business district. They balanced the needs of the entire area and ‘planted seeds’ (via progressive downtown projects albeit sometimes not totally embraced or accepted by other elected officials—but their ideas persevered) for what will eventually become a city which welcomes visitors and new business from around the world.

I applaud ‘their’ achievements for our city and our downtown.

For the past several years there has been a void of this ‘vision’. There has been a void of ‘ownership’. There has been a void of a consolidated effort by our elected officials to recognize our past achievements and the improvements in our central business district. Given the breadth and depth of knowledge of our elected officials I’m surprised at this lack of attention to ‘maintaining the improvements’ which tens of millions of tax dollars went to build.

On the horizon---a Cal Ripken, Jr. managed Green Jacket’s baseball team playing ball next to the Savannah River in a stadium built for our city’s future growth, vitality and attractiveness. Like the projects in the past, this one will require a vision and an understanding of the ‘real’ potential a venue of this caliber has for the present and future economic health of our great city- Augusta, Georgia.


Two interesting shows at the Morris Museum of Art

Currently up at the Morris Museum of Art are two very different exhibitions, but both should be checked out. The first exhibition is one of the ABSOLUTE best exhibition I have ever seen at the Morris Museum of Art. Tom Nakashima: Two Decades, this exhibition is up and running now through April 29th. If you cannot connect to Mr. Nakashima's visual vocabulary, you might be more interested in American Art Pottery from the Moody Collection. Needless to say there is always something for everyone at the Morris Museum of Art. Need more info

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A different kind of Blog

Now a place for folks who realize the great strides downtown Augusta has made, a place for people who want to meet the current challenges it faces, and for visionaries who see the enormous potential waiting to be released. People like you.

Our authors have all committed time and resources to downtown and all have found success. Each week you will find new reasons to be optimistic about out downtown, new ideas for enjoying its diversity, and unique commentary on the people and issues involved. In addition to our regular writers, we will be inviting downtown business and property owners to share their thoughts on a monthly basis. Of course, your comments are always welcome.