The Central Business District in Augusta
Augusta, GA, anchors the region of Georgia and South Carolina known as the Central Savannah River District – or CSRA. The city is located along the banks of the Savannah River and incorporates most of Richmond County. Like many cities, multiple suburban areas surrounding the city are home to much of the area’s population, and Augusta itself has expanded to include multiple major pockets of business activity – including parts of Washington Road and Wrightsboro Road. However, the central business district in downtown Augusta has remained a hub of activity and is seeing indicators of significant revitalization in recent years, as multiple businesses – both large and small – are choosing to bring their offices to the area.
The Augusta downtown area became a center for manufacturing in the late 1840s, with the development of the Augusta Canal. The Canal was built in 1845 to provide power, water and transportation to homes and businesses in the area. The first factories were completed by 1847 and made the Augusta area a prominent Southern manufacturing hub. However, by the early 1900s, the luster had worn off and union workers’ dissatisfaction with pay and working conditions all but eliminated the textile industry in the area. Today, the Augusta Canal is managed by the Augusta Canal Authority. It is primarily a tourist attraction, providing historical tours and recreational activities (the Canal path runs along the canal and offers trails suitable for walking, running and cycling). Additionally, King and Sibley Mills, located along the Canal are currently in use/development after years of neglect, serving at the home of Augusta Cyberworks, a cybersecurity training school.
Throughout these periods of feast and famine for manufacturing in Augusta, the Augusta Medical District was slowing but steadily growing. In 1818, City Hospital was opened, and it became home to the Medical Academy of Georgia in 1829. In the 1950s, City Hospital – now University Hospital – and the Medical Academy of Georgia separated and the college opened a separate facility. Currently, University Hospital and the Medical College of Georgia, part of Augusta University, along well the Augusta VA Medical Center, make up the Augusta Medical District. University Hospital also operates University Hospital – Summerville campus (formerly Trinity Hospital). A third healthcare system, Doctors Hospital, also calls Augusta home, though their campus is not downtown.
Downtown Augusta is also home to a number of small businesses, hotels, and restaurants on Broad Street, Greene Street, and Reynolds Street, including the Augusta Convention Center and the Marriott Hotel. Multiple restaurants have opened on Broad Street in the past five years, including three sibling restaurants by chef and restaurateur Sean Wight of Frog Hollow Hospitality – Farmhaus Burger, Frog Hollow, and Craft and Vine. As of 2018, Taxslayer is currently renovating the former YMCA facilities on Broad Street to serve as their headquarters. The downtown area is also home to multiple performing arts facilities, including the recently renovated and reopened Miller Theater, the Imperial Theater, Bell Auditorium and James Brown Arena. To celebrate the businesses and restaurants on Broad Street, area businesses host First Friday on the first Friday of each month.