Augusta Commission to vote on labeling downtown "slum"

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Downtown Augusta is a tale of two streets where buildings that are falling apart face off with beautiful historic and modern buildings.

Waist high weeds poke out of the sidewalk on 9th street and wasp nests hang from abandoned buildings across the street from the sleek, new Augusta Library.

Augusta resident Don Giles says he classifies downtown as a slum.

"The buildings aren't kept up. It's bringing a lot of crime to Augusta," he said.

"It definitely a slum we've got a whole bunch of run down and abandoned buildings," said Fulisatee Bell, who has lived in Augusta five years.

Commissioners are considering officially calling downtown a slum because that would allow them to create an Urban Redevelopment Area that would help them borrow money they need for renovations.

Bill Fennoy, the Commissioner for downtown, says it would be a mistake to saddle the good with the bad by calling it a slum.

"This is not a slum area, this is a neglected area and there's a lot of work to be done in this area," he said.

A city committee is expected to recommend Monday that commissioners create an Urban Redevelopment Area by declaring 600 acres downtown a slum.

According to the resolution that will come before Commissioners, downtown can be categorized as a slum because it has a large number of dilapidated buildings, it is conducive to crime and it has unsanitary conditions, among other things.

If Commissioners create a Redevelopment Area they'd receive help funding the $40 million renovation of the municipal building.

Fennoy says they could use the money but he says it would do more harm than good because giving the area a negative label would leave it with a stigma that would hurt the area for years to come.

"Nobody wants to shop in a slum area, no one wants to live in a slum area and nobody wants to work in a slum area," he said.

But Giles says commissioners need to call it what it is, "It may cause harm but anything is better than what we got."

Commissioners will vote on the issue in their September 24th meeting.