"Perfect storm" is not something planners and consultants typically say at public meetings. But in Evans, Georgia, all the right factors are coming together for a new downtown center for the seat of Columbia County.
Evans, a community of 35,000, is a suburb of the Augusta metro area located on the North side of Interstate 20 near the Georgia-South Carolina state line. Since 2010, Evans has experienced 21% growth in population and is projected to grow by another 9% in the next five years--the Evans Towne Center plan is the County's strategy to prepare for that growth and shape its future.
At a community meeting on the 14th, Columbia County planners unveiled four concepts based on the findings of the consulting team, made up of Bleakly Advisory Group, TSW, and Cranston Engineering Group. “Our consultants were tasked with a lofty goal," said Andrew Strickland, director of the Planning Services Division. "To look at the crystal ball, and really listen to what the community wants, to help us all envision what Evans Towne Center will be.”
The four concepts are all centered on the Evans Towne Center Park and the currently under construction Columbia County Arts Center, and combine a mix of uses, including over 900 residential units, 260,000 square feet of commercial space, and 365,000 square feet of office space.
Gelber and Bleakly Advisory conducted demographic and market analyses of the area within a 3-mile boundary of Evans Towne Center to provide insights on the mix and amounts of space for various uses, and the findings were favorable for development. With higher incomes, growing population, and strong regional employment growth, Bleakly Advisory found that the demand for denser, mixed-use, walkable development was apparent and the feedback gathered from the community session will better inform final decisions. "I've got to say, in the 20, 25 years I've been doing this, I've never worked on a job where there are more conditions all pushing in the same direction to have something absolutely wonderful happen," Gelber told the Augusta Chronicle.