There is no denying it.
A lot of people across the river from North Augusta seriously doubted that Project Jackson was going to move forward.
The main reason for the skepticism was the growing success of downtown Augusta.
“Say, what?” some of you might be asking.
Well, believe it or not, Augusta has announced some pretty impressive developments over the past year regarding its future economy.
In November, the city announced not one, but two new hotels that would be moving into the downtown area that could potentially equate to $60 million in investments.
That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Even more exciting was the fact that the two new hotels are planned for completely different areas of downtown Augusta.
Last fall, developers announced a proposed five-story Hyatt House hotel with a 140-space parking deck was scheduled to be built on the upper end of Broad Street at the current site of the former Capitol City Bank & Trust building by a local investment group headed by John Engler of DTJR, LLC.
The Hyatt House hotel, which is expected to offer at least 100 rooms, will be located right next to the Frog Hollow Tavern on the 1200 block of Broad Street.
The other new hotel announced late last year will be constructed along Reynolds and Ninth streets, directly across from the city-owned Augusta Convention Center and parking garage.
Augusta Riverfront LLC — a company owned by William S. Morris III, the publisher of The Augusta Chronicle — plans to build the new 125-room hotel at the site of the former city jail along Reynolds Street.
So, what does that have to do with our friends in North Augusta?
The success of a neighboring city and its future amenities can influence a proposed development in another town.
Some major players in the Augusta area thought Project Jackson was dead as soon as the two new hotels in downtown Augusta were announced.
People thought that Augusta’s success was sucking future revenue from North Augusta
Then, when longtime North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones announced late last year that he would not seek reelection after more than 30 years with city of North Augusta, many skeptics saw that as the writing on the wall: Project Jackson was dead.
After all, why would an extremely successful and popular mayor who has won re-election a whopping five times since first taking over the mayor’s office in 1997 suddenly decide he was not seeking reelection?
This is the same man who served as a city councilman for more than a decade, before he was even elected as mayor in 1997.
Lark Jones is North Augusta. Folks absolutely love him there.
So some people speculated that Jones was leaving office in May before the true fate of Project Jackson was announced.
That was the theory, at least.
However, that theory doesn’t really give Jones the credit he deserves considering he has been a political powerhouse in North Augusta for decades while Augusta mayors such as Larry Sconyers, Bob Young and Deke Copenhaver have come and gone.
Still many locals thought there was some suspicious timing to Jones’ announcement.
Rumors continued to spread when Jones kept making statements to the local media such as, “If North Augusta’s biggest controversy is whether or not we do a $160 million to $180 million economic development project on the river, then we are doing pretty good.”
The “whether or not” part of that statement kept bothering some folks.
But if Jones and the city of North Augusta are playing chicken with the public regarding its plans for Project Jackson, they are officially the world champions.
Just this past week, The Augusta Chronicle reported that the North Augusta City Council gave unanimous approval for a refinancing of the Medac parking garage to get funding to start preparing the Project Jackson site.
The vote allowed a $6 million “line of credit” to be accessed for site work, according to The Chronicle.
So, work is continuing on the site.
But the question is still, will the entire, completed project ever really materialize?
The estimated cost of Project Jackson is reported to be around $140 million, so North Augusta still has a long way to go.
However, the city is moving forward, determined that a ballpark is in its future.
Augusta residents should wish North Augusta nothing but the best.
A stadium across the river in North Augusta could only benefit restaurants and shops in downtown Augusta.
Let’s just hope that Lark Jones will be able to start to see real progress on the new stadium before he leaves office in May.