AUGUSTA, Ga. – The projects aren’t all glamorous, but nearly 30% of special purpose, local option sales tax 8 project funds will go into downtown Augusta.
After planning was postponed last year due to COVID-19, the $250 million sales tax package appears by itself on the March 16 ballot, with advance voting starting Feb. 22.
The priciest downtown item is $25 million for a new James Brown Arena at the site of the current arena on Seventh Street.
The funds will go toward Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority’s plan for a $228-million-plus complex able to seat more than 10,000, with a wing connecting it to Bell Auditorium. Adding a parking deck would cost another $18.5 million, project planners said.
“While not every proposed project made the cut, I believe that SPLOST 8 represents much-needed projects that will move Augusta forward,” Mayor Hardie Davis said of the package.
Another $16.5 million from the 1% sales tax will go to an existing facility, the Georgia Cyber Center parking garage. The city built the deck as its contribution to the Cyber Center and the $16.5 million will retire debt on the project.
The package includes $14 million to redevelop the riverfront “Depot” property, a historic train station at Fifth and Reynolds streets.
The site was eyed by the Augusta Downtown Development Authority for a large mixed-use complex of apartments, retail and office space, but a deal negotiated by the DDA with Alabama developer BLOC Global fell through early last year.
Not included in the package were requests by Augusta Museum of History for a James Brown wing, Augusta Jewish Museum and a proposed military museum to be located at the old Richmond Academy building.
With the bulk of Augusta’s blighted properties located in and around downtown, the package includes $4 million for blight mitigation, such as replacing blighted structures.
Projects that could benefit downtown include the list’s $23.5 million for road resurfacing, $20 million to supplement the stormwater utility fee for grading and drainage projects and funding for tree, sidewalk and traffic system work.
Projects on the SPLOST 8 list that aren’t downtown include $5 million in seed money for a regional water park and $11 million to replace the Richmond County Correctional Institute.
On the list for downtown is $500,000 for video security “enhancements,” possibly supplementing Richmond County Sheriff’s Office surveillance and $600,000 for maintenance of three city cemeteries – Magnolia and Cedar Grove downtown, as well as Westview near Lake Olmstead.
The package includes $5.5 million for a juvenile justice and training center, the brainchild of Chief Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown. Columbia County’s recent decision to leave the Augusta Judicial Circuit could impact the project but its proposed location is at the Craig Houghton School or the former Joint Law Enforcement Center, both of which are downtown.