North Augusta's downtown has recently blossomed with the development of Riverside Village, and the downtown area is on the minds of both the city and North Augusta Forward, a local nonprofit.

The city's Planning and Development Department, plus Planning Commission, are looking to draft changes to downtown regulations. At the same time, North Augusta Forward, recently accepted to the Main Street South Carolina program, is working on some initiatives to boost downtown.

North Augusta's Planning and Development director Libby Hodges said traditionally, downtowns have been the city center, the place where commercial business happened.

"North Augusta is interesting that over time, we've had some of those functions move out into different places around the city," she said, mentioning the Exit 5/Sweetwater area and Knox Avenue.

Hodges said the city has a downtown, it's just a "little bit different."

Code changes

She said the city is doing some adjustments to create more of a commercial center and having the existing downtown connect to the "new part" of downtown so that "when people come to visit, they don't just go to the stadium, they'll also go up the hill and and go to some of the stuff we have up there."

Downtown North Augusta runs from the Savannah River through Riverside Village up a hill to Georgia Avenue and to Calhoun Park and stretches two blocks over to the east and west.

Riverside Village was recently rezoned as downtown by City Council.

The city's Planning Committee, a recommending body, has formed a subcommittee to work on drafting changes to how the city regulates downtown.

The Planning Commission and Hodges' department recently did something very similar with sign codes and proposed changes to sign regulations and have been sent to City Council. In those proposed sign changes, they added new types of signs for downtown: iconic signage, murals and public art.

"We're hoping that it gives some opportunity for a little more creativity," Hodges said. "We want people to remember when they come to our downtown."

North Augusta Forward is heading up the Main Street South Carolina process and has a vision for downtown, as well.

Main Street South Carolina is a downtown revitalization program. Earlier this year, a crew visited North Augusta and presented a "roadmap" for revitalization.

In their planning, the team asked for responses to a public survey and presented the results during a February meeting.

The top response for types of businesses needed were restaurants, meeting and event space and types of activities for live music and events.

Avery Spears-Mahoney, director of North Augusta Forward, said the general goal is to create a "vibrant and sustainable downtown."

Planned projects and the future

Along with the Greeneway Connector, North Augusta Forward is looking at opportunities to add amenities to downtown, like yard games, benches and planters.

The organization also owns The Carpet Shop, an empty building on the corner of Center Street and Georgia Avenue.

They plan to add a second building on the property, and the two would have co-working space, a food hall, retail space, a rooftop restaurant opportunity and green space.

Riverside Village also has more planned. Along with SRP Park – the Augusta GreenJackets stadium – and the Crowne Plaza Hotel, two restaurants have opened and there are two apartment communities. Yet-to-be constructed is an office building, a parking garage, a park and more residential and retail space. 

Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. Follow her on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges.