The Downtown Development Authority of Augusta has identified the following priorities for the central business district:
Business Promotion & Retention:
Small businesses are the backbone of American commerce, and they are the primary drivers of Downtown Augusta's economy. The DDA focuses its efforts on recruiting and retaining the central business district's small businesses through advocacy efforts, marketing support, grant programs and consulting services. In 2021, downtown Augusta saw a net gain of 53 new businesses and 3 expansions on the Broad Street Corridor. As of July 31, 2022, there have been 34 new businesses and 6 expansions opened or announced. The number of minority- and woman-owned businesses has increased significantly.
Commercial and residential growth in the central business district during the past two decades has created a shortage of parking spaces for downtown shoppers, visitors and residents. For years the DDA has advocated for a parking-management program to help ensure adequate parking for downtown visitors, business patrons, workers and residents. We hope to continue this conversation with the City as downtown businesses recover from the pandemic and the current recession and the City completes Broad Street TIA projects.
FAÇADE GRANT PROGRAM:
With a $105,000 donation from Georgia Power, the DDA created a Façade Grant Program to support downtown property/business owners who improve the appearance of their buildings. The program has been very successful, and 15 façade grants have been approved and funded by the DDA.
The DDA, through inter-governmental agreements with the City of Augusta, works on public/private partnerships to attract new businesses, develop vacant properties, redevelop existing buildings and improve public spaces in the central business district. The DDA assists existing and potential business owners and real estate developers with market research, consumer data and, where appropriate, access to grant funding and government bond financing, low interest loans and façade grants. In 2021, there was $83.1 million in private investment in the Broad Street Corridor. Current DDA projects include the Lamar Building and Embassy Suites Hotel.
Beautification/DOWNTOWN MAINTENANCE AND CLEANLINESS
The appearance of Downtown Augusta is crucial to its ongoing success. Numerous national studies have proven a direct correlation between public perception and commerce, showing that graffiti, boarded-up buildings and litter dissuade visitors, residents and potential investors. Based on survey results from downtown business owners, the DDA advocates for reinstating a Business Improvement District (BID), which city officials allowed to sunset in 2013. The DDA has entered into agreements with the City and ACE, LLC to use $750,000 in American Relief Funds to keep downtown clean until the end of 2024 until a BID can be reinstated.
The presence of vacant and abandoned buildings has negative impacts in downtown urban areas. Blighted buildings decrease surrounding property values, create safety hazards, deteriorate the local housing market and reduce local tax revenues. With $250,000 in American Relief Funds and $25,000 from Georgia Power, the DDA will work with the City to reduce blight in the urban core.