A series looking back on the past decade in Augusta.
January 6, 2010
The cover story, Park This, looked into the dispute over a downtown parking meter proposal.
“Everybody says we want to be this exciting city and we want to do all these exciting things,” Margaret Woodard, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, told the Metro Spirit. “We’re pretty hoppin’ downtown,” she said. We need to change our self esteem.”
Many downtown business owners along Broad Street quoted in the article felt parking meters could cripple their business. “I think people who have been here long enough to see how the downtown was and how it’s going see that this just doesn’t make sense right now,” said Coco Rubio, owner of the Soul Bar was quoted as saying. “I’ve never parked a block away to get wherever I’m going. That’s the simple reality of it right there.”
Photographer Donald Tilton of Classic Impressions had been downtown for six years in 2010. “We’re not doing anything to revitalize downtown Augusta, and now we’re going to put parking meters here?” he asked incredulously. “That’s one of the dumbest things they’ve thought of. It’s not going to bring anyone here. It’s going to turn them away.”
“Who’s complaining about parking?” asked Shama Cartwright of Rebel Den. “I’ve been here seven years, and rarely has anybody parked in front of my store.”
“We’re just not a destination downtown yet.” Lea Glowny, gallery director of the Zimmerman Gallery was quoted as saying.
Though Woodard acknowleged the criticism, she dismissed much of it as simple grousing.
“We’re trying to look at what people are yelling and screaming about, and so far the only thing we can tell is people are just mad that it’s not going to be free anymore,” she said. “What I’m hearing is, ‘We’ve had it free for 31 years and we’re going to chase customers away,’ which is so untrue. We’ve already chased them away with our mismanaged parking.”
Art Gomez, a partner in Casa Blanca which was located where Blue Moon Cafe is today, told the Metro Spirit, “I think it’s premature to do it here,” he says. “I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, I’m just saying the timing isn’t good, especially in 2010.”
Gomez continued, “We never hear anyone walk in and complain about parking,” he says. “I say once we are actually really doing well on Broad Street, then yeah-people really will benefit from it.”
Matt Aiken, former District 1 commissioner, stated “I think the downtown has some work to do as far as communicating with each other.”
Fast forward to December of 2019 and the city is still wrestling with parking downtown, with a new company working on a plan to present to the public in the near future.