Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012
By Francie Klopotic
"Why move to Augusta?"
That is a fair question. After all, Atlanta is my hometown. I was born and raised there. Yes, it has major league sports teams, tons of cultural spots, a thriving arts community, and insane pockets of cool. However, it also comes with a lot of negatives. Negatives that made us want to pull up roots and head east. More negatives, I feel, than the positives that once made Atlanta great.
Yes, I did say “once”.
Those negatives include congestion, congestion, and congestion. Anyone who has spent any time on the interstate system in Atlanta knows what I am referring to. I-285 is probably the closest example of hell on earth I an imagine. Forget trying to get anywhere downtown if you live outside the perimeter. A normal commute between two points in the metro area can last up to one hour each way.
Atlanta used to be a normal sized city. I can remember the downtown area as far back as the early 1970s. The Hyatt Regency with its spinning restaurant could easily be seen cutting the sky at night. The interstate system was still fairly young. Our family could pile in the car and take I-20 to Austell from East Atlanta in a short amount of time. Take that same route today and let me know how it goes for you. The skyline began exploding with new skyscrapers and in the 1980s when many international businesses moved their headquarters into the area. The city’s metropolitan population has steadily increased over time with no end in sight. There are just too many people and not enough infrastructure to support them. Not a good combination.
Now to answer the question: Why Augusta?
To a fresh pair of eyes, Augusta and the entire CSRA is surrounded by natural beauty. With the Savannah River dividing Georgia and South Carolina, the tranquility of Clarks Hill Lake, the historic towpath of the Augusta Canal, and the birdwatcher’s paradise of Phinizy Swamp, there is an abundance of natural resources in our collective backyard. One can never find a lack of places to go explore and experience the great outdoors.
For history buffs, Augusta is teeming with ghosts from the past. This is the second city to be established in the state. General James Oglethorpe founded Augusta way back in 1736 and named it after the wife of the Prince of Wales. George Washington even visited here. Go look at the tombstones in St. Paul’s cemetery on Reynolds Street. Yes, Augusta is very old.
We love the outdoors and we love history, so Augusta appeared to be the perfect fit. Couple that with a smaller metropolitan area, extremely affordable housing, lighter traffic and easy access to waterways. We were sold.
At the time we moved here Augusta’s downtown seemed like a gem in the rough. New shops were popping up and it appeared that people enjoyed going down there to eat, drink, and be merry. First Friday was actually a fun event, loaded with music, art and performers. There was talk about restoring the old Miller Theatre. We could sense the optimism on Artist’s Row.
We even considered opening a small business downtown.
However, in the most recent past we have seen several things happen on Broad Street. They haven’t been good things. Favorite businesses closed their doors forever. The beloved taxpayer-funded clock in front of the JB White building disappeared from Broad Street in the cover of night. Graffiti began to marr the walls and trash began lining the streets on a regular basis. Panhandlers decided the coast was clear and started coming out in droves, both on Broad Street and along the Riverwalk. During the hours immediately following First Friday, Broad Street became a hotbed for violence.
We used to see CADI folks riding Segways up and down Broad and it gave us some sense of security. Then, over time, those CADI folks disappeared. We used to see police officers walking their beat on Broad. Where did they go? The goodness that is our downtown has once again become tarnished and the local news media outlets happily run with the bad headlines, once more helping to keep folks away from the area.
In the midst of all the bad that is happening, it is our hope that the city will thrive once again. There is a lot of promise still brewing on Broad. It is that feeling of promise that drew us to move here in the first place. Will we see the decline continue or will we see things happen to help bring businesses, and paying customers, back into downtown?
Only time will tell. Until then, we intend to help the revitalization movement. It is our intention to help in any way we can to liberate Augusta from the stranglehold of city officials whose main purpose seems to be in keeping this city from thriving.. There are many of us average citizens who care, and we encourage others to offer up their voices and support in the fight against corruption. This is our adopted hometown. It deserves to be saved.
Are you willing to stand up for what is right? Augusta needs all of us.
Augusta needs you.***