Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Project Jackson: Should Augusta be Worried?

NORTH AUGUSTA, SC - The Hammond’s Ferry Planned Development, approved by ordinance in 2002 as the North Augusta Riverfront Planned Development and revised by ordinance in 2010, is the subject of an application for a major modification to the Planned Development General Development Plan (GDP). The intent of the current General Development Plan modification is to outline proposed development of the Riverfront Center (Phase B) to include the proposed GreenJackets Ballpark and other commercial and residential uses.

The request is a joint application between the City of North Augusta “City” and Leyland Alliance, LLC “Leyland”. Leyland is represented by the North Augusta Riverfront Company, LLC “NARC”, also referred to herein as the Master Developer. 

Overview of the Hammond’s Ferry Project

Hammond’s Ferry will be a vibrant, mixed-use village adding a new center of residential, commercial, and recreational life within the historical context of the North Augusta riverfront.

The new village will be a focal point of local and regional activity that will bring together new and old residents, regional employees and business patrons, and regional visitors in a lively, pedestrian-oriented environment of inviting public spaces, walkable streets, and traditional architecture. Residential, commercial, and civic uses will be combined with parks, opens spaces, and a wonderful public realm of streets and sidewalks to provide a critical mass of activity and life to the new village.

Hammond’s Ferry will be distinguished by an integrated collection of wonderful residences, commercial activity, civic gathering places, ample recreational activities, and cultural events that will appeal to a wide spectrum of residents, visitors from the surrounding towns, and regional guests. Rooted in the appeal of its exceptional setting, Hammond’s Ferry will grow organically over time to create an authentic, lasting, and sustainable set of neighborhoods that, working together, will offer a sense of intimacy and community for residents and visitors alike.

Hammond’s Ferry will be a place defined by physical and social connections. Located at the edge of the Savannah River, where North Augusta meets its waterfront, Hammond’s Ferry will become a center of commercial activity for the surrounding area, providing a strong foundation for the Riverfront Center that will serve residents and visitors alike. Physical connections will be reinforced by the network of intimate streets, the Greeneway path system and the parks, the system of sidewalks throughout the project, and the sense that pedestrians and bicyclists alike can enjoy the experience of the public spaces, streets, natural assets, and pathways that will weave Hammond’s Ferry together internally, tying together the City above, the ponds below, the River, the Riverfront Center, and the many amenities that Hammond’s Ferry will offer. 

In seeking qualities and personality that are distinctive and characteristic of Hammond’s Ferry and which will give it an authentic sense of place, the programming of the village will focus on the needs and character of this particular community and on the unique aspects of this site and its context. Hammond’s Ferry will strive accordingly not to reproduce other projects, other places, or other programs but rather to grow organically into its own character in such a way that it will be forever tied to its location, its circumstances, and most importantly to the people who choose to make Hammond’s Ferry their home or their place of business.

 The Heart of the Village – the Riverfront Center

Within Hammond’s Ferry, the Riverfront Center (Phase B) itself will be the primary center of mixed-use activities serving the surrounding neighborhoods and will be the center of higher intensity civic, retail, commercial, and residential uses. The Riverfront Center is the heart and soul of the neighborhood - the one common area of activity to which all residents and visitors have a sense of connection.

A key aspect of the Riverfront Center will be the creation of public space or spaces around which commercial activities can flourish and within which people can undertake a variety of activities, ranging from shopping to public markets to simply hanging out. Public spaces can range in form from the streets and sidewalks to small plazas or large commons. In each case they must be characterized by careful consideration of the street front experience and the creation of vitality that comes from the right mix of commercial activity, residences, ample open space, street landscaping, and street furniture. Public spaces in the Riverfront Center should be highly activated by adjacent shops and restaurants. Wherever possible, commercial activity and dining should spill out onto the street to further engage people and spaces and make them a part of the experience.

Rituals and festivals should be used to further activate the optimal use of outdoor space for gathering and social interaction. Whether an outdoor market, a musical event or performance, or a fair, activities and regularly scheduled events are essential to the social interaction that will satisfy the human desire to meet and interact with others. Residents will get to know their neighbors and will become more deeply attached to the village that they call home. 

As the scope and regularity of events grows, visitors too will come just to be a part of and feel included in this community experience that is so characteristic of a true mixed-use village.

A carefully crafted mix of small, local and regional shops and restaurants together with a careful selection of commercial and civic anchors will contribute to the creation of a vital and sustainable village center that will both serve the needs of residents and visitors in search of a unique, intimate commercial experience unlike that in any of the nearby commercial centers.

The program will combine certain basic conveniences with a variety of social gathering places and entertainment venues, a limited mix of specialized retail and food shops, a contingent of professional office uses and service components, a variety of recreational and athletic components, and an array of civic components that lend an authentic town-like quality to the commercial core of the Riverfront Center. 

 Recreational Life in Hammond’s Ferry

Recreation and wellness will be an essential part of the Hammond’s Ferry experience for people of all ages. Using the natural amenities and open spaces of the site as a key resource for outdoor activities, Hammond’s Ferry will offer a range of recreational amenities to enhance fitness and outdoor oriented activities.

Outdoor features of the site, including the ponds, portions of the forested areas, the stream bed, and access points along the river will be woven together into a network of pathways, exercise areas, and outdoor activity zones. Outdoor activity facilities and events throughout the year will help to create a community focused on health and well being for all ages as well as a place where active lifestyles are encouraged. The network of paths and outdoor activity sites combined with the streets and sidewalks throughout the project will foster a focus on walking, jogging, hiking and bicycling as ways to get around the site and enjoy the neighborhoods, the ponds, the parks and the riverfront.

Responses to the Project Description required by §B.2.8.f of the North Augusta Development Code (NADC)

1. The overall development plan including phasing, proposed mix of land use categories, and the aggregate density or intensity for the entire site and each phase of the proposed planned development, i.e., multifamily residential, neighborhood commercial, industrial, regional commercial, single-family residential, distribution, etc.

2. Total acreage of the project and gross density and/or intensity proposed, i.e., total residential units per gross acre and/or total square footage per gross acre by use.

3. The number of parcels or lots in the planned development and the specifics of each, i.e., number of acres, uses, net density/intensity, proposed setbacks, number and height of buildings, maximum building coverage, maximum impervious area as a percentage of the parcel, etc.

Table 1. Development Program and PD Use List by Phase 

All development lots in the Riverfront Center (Phase B) will be designated Urban Lots as shown on Exhibit A. The uses and associated density or intensity for the Riverfront Center are outlined below. 

With the exception of the Riverfront Center, the mix of uses on each parcel will be primarily residential units of various sizes mixed with neighborhood commercial uses. Residential units may include: single-family detached and attached for sale, multifamily for sale and rent, and live-work units for sale for small and at-home businesses.

The program allows for up to 275,000 square feet of commercial space throughout the project, the majority of which shall be located in the Riverfront Center. Up to 220,000 square feet of the commercial space is planned for the Riverfront Center. 

Identification of any common area, private roads, common parking lots, open space, recreation areas or community facilities to be retained by the project developer after buildout and disposition, i.e., transferred to a homeowner or condominium association, placed in a conservation easement, dedicated to the City, or otherwise deed restricted.

The roads, alleys, sidewalks and all areas within the right of way will be public. Improvements within the right of way will be installed by the developer and through the dedication process be accepted by the City of North Augusta. The project will also contain numerous parks and open spaces, both public and private. Several parks including Boeckh Park, Brick Pond Park and the Greeneway Trail were jointly constructed through the efforts of and funding by the North Augusta Riverfront Company and the City of North Augusta. 

The proposed GreenJackets Ballpark will be owned by the City and leased to a private ownership group. In addition to the parks and open areas, the project will also contain both public and privately developed parking areas that will be available for public use. These parking areas will serve as overflow parking for
civic and institutional uses in the Riverfront Center, retail employees and customers and will be
further utilized during public events within the project. 

In addition to roadways, alleys, and sidewalks, key open space components of the project include:

A. Public Parks, Commons and Plazas: A public park is a recognized publicly owned space available for passive or active recreation managed by the City. A common is an open landscaped area within a street right of way that is larger than a median or an island and may be used for passive recreation. A plaza is a hard surfaced public space within a commercial area that is actively programmed for public and commercial events. A listing of the parks and commons appears in Item 14.

B. Private Open Space Greens: Open space that is not retained in City ownership, including “greens” that provide a shared front yard for several lots, will be platted as open space and ultimately deeded to the Hammond’s Ferry Property Owners Association.

C. Small medians and islands within road rights of way have been or will be improved by the Master Developer or his assignees in conjunction with road construction and dedicated to the City.

D. The Power Line Easement: Land located within the Georgia Power transmission line easement may be utilized for agricultural, horticultural, open space or public parking uses. 

The Hammond’s Ferry Planned Development is a public private partnership between the North Augusta Riverfront Company and the City of North Augusta pursuant to property acquisitions and development agreements. The North Augusta Riverfront Company is considered the Master Developer. 

Portions of the development may be assigned or sold to sub-developers for implementation. The documents applicable to the development including design standards in the Pattern Book and various covenants and restrictions will be applicable to all of the developers and all of the development and will be enforced by the Master Developer or the Hammond’s Ferry Property Owners Association as applicable. Changes to the design guidelines, covenants and restrictions must be approved by the City prior to implementation.

Mayor Lark Jones says the city will front about $40 million in civic improvements such as parking decks, a new conference center, and the actual ball park. The remaining $125 million will come from private investment.

After the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision granting the green light to the project and some changes in the master plan approved by the City, construction of the ball park could begins soon and be ready for the 2017 season, according to sources.

Environmental Impact

The co-chair of Sierra Club in Augusta, Georgia, Sam Booher, sent a letter to the Regional Environmental Officer (REO), US Department of Commerce, in Atlanta, expressing the concerned of environmentalists about the negative impact that the project will have for the area.

“I am opposed to Project Jackson. Unfortunately the project that North Augusta, South Carolina wants to undertake is much too ambitious for the confined area for which it is planned and it will cause serious traffic and environmental problems and it threatens the loss of historically meaningful artifacts.

“North Augusta wants to squeeze a semipro baseball stadium, a hotel, and a parking deck into what they consider to be 25 acres, but I calculate to be about half that. The tract sits on what had previously been considered floodplain and is still the shoulder between the main river channel and the flood plain behind the shoulder. Indeed, the Brick Ponds Park that North Augusta created sits in the flood plain behind the shoulder that North Augusta wants to use for routing traffic in and out, a parking building, the stadium and comercial stores that make up Project Jackson. There is not room for required roadwork to handle 16,000 fans wanting to attend a night time ball game.

“Brick Ponds Park was established when the City of North Augusta was ordered by SCDHEC to control and improve the quality of storm water runoff from the western section of the city. North Augusta forced the migration of that storm water runoff trough the wetland cells of the former clay mining area to improve the quality of the runoff water significantly before it entered the Savannah River.”

For Booher, to move 16,000 fans will significantly increase the pollution load and storm water runoff volume to the brick ponds.

“It is my hope that if the stadium, hotel, parking deck and stores must be built, it be at another location in North Augusta and not between the Savannah River and the flood plain/wetlands” 

“The upland wetland where Project Jackson is proposed to be placed is an ideal spot for looking for artifacts that might help us better understand the Native Americans of the area”. 

The REO address is: 410 WEST Peachtree Street NW, suite 1820, Atlanta, GA, 30308. 

According to news report for the Mayor of Augusta, Hardie Davis, the project could be an asset for the region and he is not seen as a threat such mega economic development just in a mile of his office, across the river. 

On November 3, 2015, registered voters of Richmond County are going to vote, in a referendum, for a package of funds for constructions and other non essential projects and for some Commissioners it would be an opportunity to challenge North Augusta mega development.  


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