Augusta Sustainable Development Agenda
Location: Augusta, GA. The second-largest city in Georgia
The Augusta Sustainable Development Agenda (ASDA) originates from a sense within the city leadership that after more than a decade of consolidation with Richmond County, the new city-county entity had not yet coalesced. Augusta needed a unified community vision of how it should sustainably evolve. Therefore, this sixteen-month planning effort focuses on four basic things:
- First, it identifies a set of sites for future development, classifies them into a set of discrete project types, and then selects an illustrative “prototypical” example of each type.
- Secondly, the Agenda establishes “The Priority Development District,” as a primary unifier, that connects the 2009 Westobou Urban Area Plan Projects with three ASDA prototypical projects.
- Thirdly, this Agenda recommends a set of policies that can facilitate focusing growth and development in healthier and more sustainable ways.
- Finally, this work recommends that the City create “The Office of Implementation,” whose purpose is to encourage realization of this projects for all parts of Augusta.
This Agenda is intended as a guide to assist the city leadership in how to apply ‘Best Practice” procedures to the issues and opportunities within the city. It applies to both private and public sector development, planning, design, decision-making and funding allocations, across many disciplines, over the critical next two decades.
With its consolidated cit-county form of government, Augusta is uniquely situated to very effectively manage growth in its urban, suburban, and rural areas. This provides the City with a strategic advantage in battling the nation-wide trends of inefficiencies associated with the post-WWII phenomena of suburban sprawl. This Agenda proposes that Augusta concentrates growth in nodes focused on key existing intersections, ranging in size from town centers, villages, and hamlets while preserving its rural lands from further encroachment.
Charter principle #1:
This Agenda has recommended that the Commission rally around planning for priority project development within the region by:
- Adopting a map of Prototype Projects to protect valuable resources, encourage more efficient and sustainable uses, and create attractive places to live, work, and play.
- Focusing any new retail development at key, regionally scaled intersections.
- Strategically supporting corridors by understanding those that will remain commercial and those that will transition to housing and employment uses within the Corridor Revitalization Zones map.
Cannon #3 + #4 lend further support as the Priority Development District centers on a multi-modal transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and potentially low-speed electric vehicle corridor connecting downtown businesses and the medical colleges with the demographic center of Suburban Augusta.
Charter principle #2:
This Agenda supports the community’s vision through land development policites that regulate for Smart Growth with a proposed Agricultural and Timber Protection Zone that encourages the economic contributions of ‘working lands’ in Augusta. The Agenda suggests strategically steering public investments by updating the Water and Sewer Master Plan to reflect rural land preservation efforts by limiting sewer expansion and prohibiting costly sprawl. And establishes conducting cost vs. revenue analysis on the impact of new development in Rural Augusta before making public sector investments as fiscally wise.
There exists today a hand full of large and beautiful farms in Rural Augusta. The land is comparatively cheap. To prevent land being sold off to develop sprawling tract homes, the projects strategy embodies sever key components:
- Preservation and enhancement through a farming demonstration serving local families with pick your own fruits, vegetables, and pecans.
- Protection of key “image making” properties with current-use valuation taxation.
- Development of programs that encourage local food production.
Canons #6 + #7 help to additionally clarify some of the environmental policies in this Agenda. An enhanced Land Development Approval Process has been recommended that uses the quality of the Green Infrastructure enhanced or preserved within the development as an evaluation criteria. This step is recommended for all development applications.
Charter principle #3:
Augusta’s existing inner-ring neighborhoods need support. Over half (54.8%) of Augusta’s housing units were built between 1940 and 1978 and have not experienced any sustained private sector reinvestment. Therefore, this Agenda proposes a set of focused, infill policies around the Priority Development District, to help revitalize Suburban Augusta by increasing the property tax base and encouraging further office, restaurant, and recreational projects to capitalize on existing infrastructure. Policies include ensuring quality rental property management; encourage non-profit ownership of properties in difficult neighborhoods, and creating effective neighborhood associations. These sustainable strategies of linking existing infrastructure to new development often yield a one of a kind community, creating financially viable neighborhoods.
Canon #5 helps explain the emphasis placed on the maintenance and revitalization of already urbanized land.
Charter principle #4:
Within Suburban Augusta, there are several potential Town Center locations with strong traffic volumes and population accessibility. For their development, a Traditional Neighborhood model, with a mix of land uses and a well-shaped, organized street grid have been drawn with the intention to illustrate areas where workers can linger and enjoy the comings and going of their neighbors.
Lessons learned: 1. Get to know your group. Acting as community liaison between disparate interests allowed the project team to find areas of commonality. For example, the abandoned Regency Mall site contained within Project #5b was initially set aside internally due to knowledge of an unwilling speculator holding the property hostage. However, the project team was eventually hauled back because of the site’s political ramifications. It’s the problem that the community, at all levels, wanted to solve. 2. Take advantage of the initiatives and projects of others. The Regency Mall strategy was only created after the Army Corp of Engineers Rocky Creek Flood Control project came to light. This was an excellent first step in building a real destination and asset for the City of Augusta. Second, the Augusta Housing Authority had plans further up the Priority Development District to create Choice Neighborhoods style developments out of several previously ignored housing projects. Marry these ideas with others along the corridor really began to establish a fully integrated district plan. 3. There are a lot of enlightened self-interests within any city. However, they are not naturally aligned. The key lies in creating a common framework where private interests can structure their own public good, such as in the formation of the Augusta Civic Realty Trust. Success is found when people find a way to align their interests with others. 4. Engage the ideological aspects of “good urbanism,” in a non-overbearing fashion by leaning on nearby academics (Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture) and non-profit institutions (Georgia Conservancy’s Blueprints Program) brought and certain legitimacy to the process and acted as an educational service for the community. 5. Finally, the importance of quality graphic renderings to visualize intended development outcomes to the community can not be overstated. Beautiful illustrations can be a game-changer and bring enthusiastic project support with even a contentious or even apathetic public.
Transect Zone(s): T1 natural, T2 rural, T3 sub-urban, T4 general, T5 center.
Status: Plan Approved
Project or Plan's Scale: Region
Features: Mixed uses, Transit oriented development.
Land area (in acres): 209920
Total built area (in sq. ft.):
Total project cost (in local currency): 1.10411e+06
Retail area (in sq. ft.):
Office area (in sq. ft.):
Industrial area (in sq. ft.):
Number of hotel units:
Number of residential units (include live/work): 3925
Parks & green space (in acres):
Residential types: Townhouse/rowhouse/maisonette.
Project team designers: ShieldsDESIGN LLC
Project team developers: N/A
Previous site status:
Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: - 2030