19th-century plan inspires South Carolina project

Hammond’s Ferry, a 200-acre traditional neighborhood development (TND) now under construction in North Augusta, South Carolina, builds upon a plan that James U. Jackson, the original developer of North Augusta, set forth in the 1890s and never entirely implemented. A good deal of North Augusta filled in as Jackson envisioned, but one area conspicuously did not — the land situated in the floodplain of the Savannah River. A brick manufacturing operation and some other businesses occupied part of the site, but as years went by, much of the property fell into disuse.

Consequently the 18,500-population city assembled about 15 parcels of varying sizes (the smallest two by eminent domain) and established a public-private initiative with developers Leyland Alliance of Tuxedo, New York, and Civitas of Charleston, South Carolina, to turn the neglected area into a TND. Crews began installing infrastructure last April. By the end of January, members of a newly established builders’ guild expect to begin erecting a “demonstration neighborhood” containing 33 detached houses, four rowhouses, an eight-unit manstion-style apartment building, three live-work buildings, three luxury condominium flats, and four other apartments. All of those, including 5,000 square feet of retail and office space in the live-work units, will be built on speculation. Soon after, 35 custom homes will be built around that nucleus.

taming the waters

Development of Hammond’s Ferry was made feasible by construction of dams on the river decades ago and by the redrawing of flood hazard lines about ten years ago, says N. Turner Simkins, project director. Simkins says three existing city streets are being extended into the site, “effectively completing a town plan created in 1891,” when Jackson had Charles Boeckh lay out North Augusta as a grid of streets embellished by two formal squares and by numerous open spaces that follow natural drainage courses to the river. Working in the spirit of the initial plan, Dover, Kohl & Partners organized Hammond’s Ferry with streets and blocks “laced with pedestrian routes — sidewalks, shortcuts, service lanes, and small outdoor spaces,” says principal Victor Dover.

The most important public space, Riverfront Square, will frame a view of the river, with downtown Augusta, Georgia, on the opposite side. The square, an expanse of lawn and shade trees with retail on some of its edges, will be three-quarters the size of a typical square in historic Savannah, Georgia, to be “intimate without being cramped,” Dover says. A block beyond Riverfront Square, a park will extend along a mile of river. “About 55 acres will remain in public ownership and will be parkland,” including riverfront land and a 22-acre lake, says Skip Grkovic, the city’s director of economic and community development. Gene W. Eidson, president of the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, will advise on how to create healthy conditions in the lake, which resulted from two large borrow pits where a brick manufacturer excavated clay.

The Greeneway Trail, a linear park named for former Mayor Thomas W. Greene, has been extended through the development, giving pedestrians and bicyclists direct access to city recreation areas adjacent to Hammond’s Ferry. At build-out in about 10 years, the development is to contain 800 to 1,200 housing units, ranging from apartments to live-work units, cottages, townhouses, and larger single-family houses, as well as business and civic uses. The builders’ guild consists of several contractors, including one who worked on I’On in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Builders are guided by David Bollman, manager of architecture and design, town architect Richard Fletcher, and a pattern book created by Lew Oliver of Atlanta. Simkins previously developed Northridge, which he describes as an 88-unit, 25-acre TND in Evans, Georgia.