27 Jul 2017 PRE-AUGUSTA TOMORROW CONVERSATIONS
Augusta business leaders H. Monty Osteen, Jr., president of Bankers First (formerly First Federal & Loan Association) and D. Hugh Connolly, president of Sherman & Hemstreet Realtors were both concerned about the deterioration of downtown Augusta and whether a downtown was really necessary for the long-term economic viability of a city like Augusta. These two gentlemen became the nucleus of the Augusta Tomorrow organization. They spoke with other businessmen who were also concerned about downtown’s deterioration. The following questions were asked of local and national economists and urban experts:
- Was it important for the community to have a viable central city, a traditional downtown, from an economic standpoint? Was the problem of decline as great as what was thought and what should be done with abandoned buildings? From conversations with urban experts and economists throughout the country, it became clear that it was critical to the well-being of the city to have an economically vibrant downtown. A deteriorated economically declining downtown served only to contaminate the rest of the community in economic, aesthetic and psychological terms. The community is best served when it is healthy throughout.
- Would the historic preservation efforts and Historic Augusta alone achieve the degree of revitalization necessary to reverse the central city’s decline effectively and lastingly? The answer was “no;” complex issues were involved which had to be dealt with through the application of manifold resources, public and private, focused directly on the various causes of the problem, even though preservation and restoration would remain an important part of the process.
Early 1980s: During a realty conference in Savannah, Georgia, Connolly had a chance meeting with George M. Brady, Jr., a member of The Rouse Company’s board of directors. Brady suggested to Connolly a meeting with Leo Molinero to discuss Augusta’s potential for revitalization. Molinero was president of American City Corporation of Columbia, Maryland and a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Rouse Company.