Author Archives: Augusta Tomorrow

Augusta-based IT firm EDTS LLC on Wednesday announced the formation of a cybersecurity-specific business unit that is projected to employ up to 100 people within five years.

The unit, called EDTS Cyber LLC, would operate out of secured office space in the company’s new headquarters being built at the former Sibley Mill property, which is being redeveloped into a high-tech corporate campus and data center called Augusta Cyberworks.

EDTS CEO Charles Johnson said EDTS Cyber will be able to tap directly into Augusta Cyberworks’ proposed 10-megawatt data center to deliver on a national level the services it currently provides throughout the Southeast from Augusta and three satellite offices in the Carolinas.

“Most importantly, it will help us fulfill our three- to five-year business plan of expanding EDTS and EDTS Cyber to over 250 employees – with 100 new jobs right here in Augusta,” Johnson said during a news conference held at the offices of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Johnson said the construction of the company’s 32,000-square-foot offices at the former textile mill should be completed next month. The company will move from its current location on Broad Street in June, he said.

The 75-employee firm provides managed IT services, consulting and 24-hour monitoring to mostly small and mid-sized businesses. It was founded in Augusta in 1999 as Elliott Davis Technology Solutions and was spun off from the former Elliott Davis accounting firm in 2009.

Johnson said the company is bolstering its cybersecurity operations because cybercrime is becoming more sophisticated and more prevalent. He noted the cost of online crime has surpassed $3 trillion and is expected to double in the next four years.

“Today’s bank robbers look much different,” he said. “No longer do they have to have masks and carry guns to wipe out your bank account – all they need is a computer and an internet connection.”

Johnson said the presence of Army Cyber Command and the National Security Agency at Fort Gordon will help create a local talent pool of skilled cybersecurity professionals.

Sue Parr, CEO of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, referenced a recent Fortune magazine article that named Augusta as one of seven cities with potential to become the “World’s Cybersecurity Capital.”

“This is exactly the type of project that we are pleased to be a part of,” she said.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Damon Cline/Business Editor

The new $50 million Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center will be a combination of many things, a public building that encourages interaction on the lower floors and a secure building on higher floors that offers privacy for agencies and companies that need it, the building’s project manager and state officials said.

That blending will also be reflected on the outside with a mix of brick facade that reflects its downtown location and a sleekness that denotes the cybersecurity role many will play inside.

The international Gensler architecture firm chosen to design the building also comes with an important advantage – the company’s Baltimore office has designed buildings for the intelligence agencies in that area and has a “prototype” that will cut the time needed to design the building nearly in half, officials said.

Gensler’s Atlanta office, one of 45 the company has worldwide, formally signed a contract April 6 and hopes to have construction documents the general contractor can use within 3½ months, where normally at least six months might be needed. The Georgia Technology Authority, which is building the project, is looking to hold a formal groundbreaking in early June, but a date has not yet been set. An official opening date has – July 10, 2018, which creates a timeline that is “a bit aggressive,” said Calvin Rhodes, executive director of the technology authority.

That’s where Gensler’s particular expertise in Baltimore with secure compartmented information facilities, or SCIFS, offered an advantage, said James Puckhaber of the Atlanta office.

“There’s enough demand for these buildings and the developers move so fast that they developed a prototype approach,” he said. “It’s a version of an office building that works really well for cybersecurity tenants.”

For instance, in a normal commercial office building, the architects try to keep its “core,” where typically the elevators and stairs are located in the center, relatively small to emphasize the exterior spaces with a view, Puckhaber said.

“In this case, because of the cyber ranges and SCIF space, the dark space in the core is really valuable to them,” he said, so it is expanded and utilized. There are specific requirements spelled out for these kinds of buildings to prevent snooping or unauthorized access, such as radio frequency isolation of rooms or spaces.

Rhodes spent a couple of days in Augusta last week meeting with tenants and potential users of the building: first with what he called “our federal three-letter partners” who might use the cyber range at the site, a secure area for cybersecurity training, and other secured areas; the following day with Augusta University and Augusta Technical College and other agencies about what their needs would be in the more public areas of the building, he said. That may result in the lower floors being the public, free-flowing area and higher floors being restricted access, Rhodes said.

“As we go higher up in the building, the building is becoming more secure,” he said. “An entire floor can be secure or classified, a component of a floor or none of the floor. That’s part of the building that gives us lots of flexibility because that design has gone into every floor to meet federal requirements to secure that space.”

For instance, a key card might be required to take the elevator to certain floors, Puckhaber said. Walls in secure areas don’t connect with outside glass, a potential weak spot, and a kind of metal mesh is added to regular drywall to help secure the space, he said. Gensler is also the architect for the new U.S. Army Cyber Command headquarters building being constructed at Fort Gordon and some of the secure areas in the Georgia Cyber building may look similar to areas there, Puckhaber said.

But the architects are also drawing inspiration for the more public areas from the J. Harold Harrison Education Commons building at AU, Rhodes said. In particular, for the ground floor of the Georgia Cyber building, there will be classrooms, conference and meeting, rooms but also a lot of public space and outdoor areas, “creating a place where people can just enjoy being together and learning from each other,” Puckhaber said.

“We like some of the open space of (the Harrison building), that will hopefully foster collaboration between the different groups, which we believe is one of the blessings of this space; is the teams all working together to try to solve unique problems in this space,” Rhodes said.

As far as the outside of the building, “We’re going with something, while it is definitely modern, it has significant nods to the brick architecture of the downtown building,” Puckhaber said. It will be in grids with individual windows and brick inlay, he said, with a denser number of windows and more of the look of a downtown building on the front facing that direction and becoming “glassier” as the building moves toward the Savannah River, Puckhaber said, where the building will connect with an extension of Riverwalk Augusta.

“It’s going to be a beautiful façade,” he said. The 320-seat auditorium will be built as a wing on the side of the building, which frees the architects from having to find space for it in the main building and “it gives us more to play with as architects,” Puckhaber said.

They have also put some thought into the landscaping and the outdoor spaces, he said.

“The choice of the planting materials is going to be very traditional and garden-like, in keeping with a lot of what you see in Augusta,” Puckhaber said. The walkways and benches and other outdoor seating, however, “will be very contemporary, clean lines that are in keeping with this technology-oriented building and also show that this is something new and special,” he said.

Having Gensler bring a prototype building design allowed the technology authority “flexibility to spend some time in other areas to produce a better product, and spend more time with the agencies and potential partners,” Rhodes said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from the private sector already.”

In fact, plans were to initially finish out only 75,000 of the 159,000 square feet of the building, with the other space available to tenants like defense contractors or others in related fields who might want o finish the space themselves. But Rhodes said he may soon have leases for potential tenants to consider, which is ahead of schedule.

A big piece also got underway last week when the Augusta Commission approved moving forward on $12 million for a 500-space parking deck, freeing up significant money that can go into the building. Rhodes said that partnership with the commission and Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis “is just significant in us being able to get this done.”

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Tom Corwin/Staff Writer

Augusta officials set in motion Tuesday plans to borrow $12 million to build a parking garage for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center. The conceptual drawing shows a five-story parking deck at the site of the current Golf & Gardens parking.

The Augusta Commission voted 9-0 after a lengthy closed-door session to authorize City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson to negotiate terms by which the city will pay for construction of a parking deck through a $12 million bond issue. Commissioner Grady Smith was absent and said he’d had cataract surgery.

Mayor Hardie Davis called the vote “generational and transformational” as Augusta puts its money toward the state’s plan to invest $50 million in the innovation center on the city’s riverfront.

Architectural drawings showed a five-story parking garage at the current site of parking for the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, a state-owned property where the innovation center is fast-tracked for construction.

The commission didn’t discuss openly how the city will repay the bonds, whether through a tax increase or reprogramming sales tax funds from other projects.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Susan McCord/Staff Writer

Graphic designer and illustrator Jason Craig lives in Augusta, Georgia, but he travels a lot to nearby cities like Atlanta and Columbia, South Carolina, for creative contract work and entrepreneurial camaraderie. “I wish I didn’t always have to leave to do cool work,” Craig says. “I’m always going to other towns and giving them my best — I want to do that in my hometown.”

Craig might soon get his wish. By the end of this year, Augusta could be known for a lot more than just its famous golf tournament. Starting in the fall, Augusta residents will have access to something called the Augusta Innovation Zone. A team of six action leaders is renovating a full downtown city block, including two historic buildings, and turning it into an incubator and hub for innovation, arts, entertainment and restaurants. Members of all industries and career paths will be able to rent desks, or even a full offices, there; they’ll share a receptionist and common office supplies; and they’ll attend seminars and workshops. Eager budding entrepreneurs might even want to rent one of the iZone’s apartments. Interactions might lead to mentor situations or future partnerships. “It will give most cities a run for their money in live-work-play spaces,” says Tommy Wafford, one of the iZone action leaders.

Wafford says he and his friends came up with the idea over drinks one night as they sought support on their own projects. “We said that something’s got to be done with startup innovative culture in our city,” says Wafford, CEO of MealViewer. “I’m on my third startup with my business partner. Every one [of these startups] has been a challenge — we’ve had to bootstrap every single one because there’s been no culture here.”

The iZone team wanted to create a physical space where people could come together to brainstorm ideas, find mentors and bounce entrepreneurial projects off venture capitalists. They wanted a place where people could inspire one another to bring their visions to fruition. And they wanted local businesses to turn to a creative space for recruiting events. Augusta, which has a population of just under 200,000, tends to draw millennials for a new cyber facility and a university hospital, but then they leave for larger cities. “There’s nowhere in our downtown for young people to go unless they want to drink,” says John Cates, an attorney and one of the founders. He and Wafford say they looked at existing hubs like the Atlanta Tech Village for motivation. “We needed to create an environment where the best and brightest can stick around.”

Wafford, Cates and the rest of their team — all of whom are working on this pro bono — worked closely with the city of Augusta to find an open space downtown that could launch this renaissance. One of the buildings they chose is an old Woolworth department store. People can join as members and check out co-working spaces. There will be offices for rent, conference rooms, restaurants and storefronts.

Over 200 people are on the waitlist for memberships, and 40% of the office space on the second floor has been reserved. Not all of those interested are locals. Wafford says he and his team are traveling all over, including to Silicon Valley, to meet with startups. They’ve also been encouraging venture capitalists to keep tabs on their progress. The huge difference in cost in living and rental space just might persuade a few entrepreneurs to move. “The wifi is just as good here as it is in Silicon Valley,” Wafford says. “We can extend your runway by 24 months [if you move your startup] to Augusta.”

The short-term goal is to get the Augusta Innovation Zone up and running by the end of 2017. The long-term goal is to use this iZone as a model for similar spaces around the country. “I definitely think there is an opportunity to help other post-industrialized cities thrive again economically,” Wafford says. “Obviously, being able to offer startup companies an ecosystem that has access to talent and funding is a key component to their success and longevity.”

Source: Forbes Magazine
Author: Mike Montgomery/Contributor

Cancer Research Building extension to be more than just physical connector. The $62.5 million project will stretch above Laney-Walker Blvd.

A large steel girder now welded against the side of the M. Bert Storey Cancer Research Building stretches across Laney-Walker Boulevard toward the Georgia Cancer Center outpatient building, where it will one day help connect them, providing both functional and symbolic links.

The three-story connector between the buildings, and a five-story extension of the Research Building parallel to Laney-Walker, are starting to round into form at Augusta University as crews work to finish the $62.5 million project expected to be completed in just over a year.

Workers last week welded one of the beams that will support the connector a couple of stories above the street, and link the research and clinical sides.

“Always the problem in medicine is the basic science people never talk to the clinicians, so here’s about as close as you can get,” said Dr. David Hess, the interim dean for the Medical College of Georgia.

“You don’t have to go outdoors any more,” he said. “That is symbolic, but also real.”

The connectors will have offices and provide access for collaboration, but more important is the 72,000-square-foot addition to the research building, which will include 6,000 square feet of renovated space in the current building.

“There is going to be quite a bit of extra research space there,” Hess said, adding that work to flesh out those floors has progressed well. “It’s going up pretty fast. And we really need it because the lab space is filling up pretty quickly. The basic science research has grown.”

There has been an administrative renovation as the cancer center, which once reported to AU’s president, has been brought back under the MCG dean. Checking with other cancer centers at other institutions found that most handled it this way, Hess said.

“What we’re trying to do is coordinate it better with the medical school, the academic and the teaching components, and the departments,” he said. “We’re trying to break silos down. It is very important that it has a good relationship with the departments of surgery and of medicine, pediatrics.”

That makes more sense for those working in basic research, too, such as the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, Hess said.

“A lot of that department does cancer research,” he said, and they have labs within the cancer research building.

There is still a need to recruit a new cancer center director, but that search has not yet begun. AU President Brooks Keel wants to wait until there is a permanent dean named for MCG, Hess said. That formal search has not yet begun, but could start as early as the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, said AU spokeswoman Christen Engel.

When it is finished, the three-story connector over the road will serve as a gateway sign for those entering the Health Sciences campus from that side, something that has been needed, Hess said.

“That’s important because one of the problems we have is you don’t even know when you are on our campus,” he said. Along with the gleaming new Dental College of Georgia building and the J. Harold Harrison Education Commons building just down R.A. Dent Boulevard from the cancer project, “It’s a pretty nice new campus on this end,” Hess said.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Tom Corwin/Staff Writer

 

URA inks agreement with Atlanta developer for apartment complex

A city bonding entity took the plunge Tuesday and entered into a development agreement with Atlanta-based Columbia Ventures to build what will be a $32 million apartment complex adjacent to Augusta University’s downtown campus.

The Urban Redevelopment Agency chaired by former Mayor Bob Young voted 5-0 to enter the agreement with Columbia, whom the city enlisted several years ago to assist in developing “nodes” within the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem redevelopment area. The historically black communities in 2009 were granted $37.5 million in tourism fees over 50 years for redevelopment.

The proposal for “Foundry Place,” named for a nearby former industrial site, goes beyond the tourism funding stream and calls for the URA to issue a $27 million revenue bond for its financing and Columbia to fund 20 percent of construction costs that exceed a certain amount for the 221-unit market-rate apartment complex.

The plan is for the URA to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the city later this spring to build the complex on a 7.6-acre city-owned site and lease it to Columbia, Young said.

Located on the edge of the Laney-Walker redevelopment zone in the Bethlehem community, the site is across R.A. Dent Boulevard and the CSX rail line from the new AU dental school and dormitories. The development plan shows six buildings lining McCauley Street and Wrightsboro Road.

Columbia has four ongoing projects including two partnerships to build MARTA stations in metro Atlanta and an independent living complex called City Lights in the Old Fourth Ward section of Atlanta, according to the firm’s proposal.

Potential tenants for the Augusta project’s market-rate apartments include 43 percent of some 40,000 people located within a two-mile radius with jobs that earn more than $40,000 a year, according to a market study presented Tuesday.

City officials have expressed reservations about building market-rate apartments that nearby residents can’t afford, but more affordable options under development nearby are said to balance out the disparity.

Among AU students, the development is expected to have the highest interest among graduate students due to its proximity to the health sciences campus, and moderate interest from undergraduates, the study said.

Rick Berry, a housing expert now with Faith Housing Coalition, said he attended the Tuesday meeting to observe but called the proposal’s 25 percent per month apartment absorption rate – achieved as units are leased – “pretty impressive.”

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Susan McCord/Staff Writer

With no “official” entrance to Riverwalk Augusta, city officials say it’s possible visitors could end up missing downtown Augusta’s greatest natural asset: the Savannah River.

But that should be less likely to happen if Augusta commissioners approve two proposed archways on Reynolds Street designed to serve as visible gateways to the riverfront recreation area.

The Downtown Development Authority approved Thursday a design concept for the arches, which would be built at the intersections of Eighth and Ninth streets.

“Those were the strategic corridors; near the Augusta Common, near the center of everything,” said Rick Keuroglian, chairman of the authority’s design committee, which settled on a design from three concepts created by Atlanta-based Cooper Carry, the architecture firm overseeing the city’s transportation tax-funded downtown streetscape projects.

The two wrought-iron arches, funded by special purpose local option sales tax funds and budgeted at roughly $270,000 each, would span the entire width of the street with the word “Riverwalk” centered at the top. They would be anchored to LED-illuminated concrete supports faced with red brick designed to mimic the look of historic downtown buildings.

“This was the one we gravitated toward the most,” said Keuroglian, director of community development for First Presbyterian Church of Augusta.

The Eighth Street arch would span the street from the corner of the historic Augusta Cotton Exchange building to the dirt parking lot across the street. The Ninth Street/James Brown Boulevard arch would stretch from the Augusta Convention Center to the Beamie’s At The River restaurant and tavern.

The archway proposal could go before the Augusta Commission for final approval as early as next week. If approved, the project could be completed within seven months, Downtown Development Authority Director Margaret Woodard said.

The authority’s Riverwalk Augusta improvements also include pre-fabricated shade structures that would be placed at various locations along the riverfront attraction. Woodard said those locations have not yet been finalized.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Damon Cline/Business Editor

Augusta is definitely a top spot for small business to thrive in our state. I recently connected with theClubhou.se in Augusta, a technology-oriented incubator. The group provides individuals with the space, guidance and network necessary to tackle the challenges they may face as a new company.

Located in a historic schoolhouse, theClubhou.se is a place of ideas that focus on knowledge, creativity and implementation through two main efforts: learning and prototyping, and co-working and business incubation. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out – you should!

Co-founder of theClubhou.se, Eric Parker, is one of the nation’s leading innovation architects. Parker is always eager to share his insight with other communities looking to create a similar business in their local area. While the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s small-business team receives more than 1,000 inquiries a year from all over the state, anyone close to the Augusta region is pointed in theClubhou.se’s direction to see if solid connections can be made.

The metro Augusta region also is home to many of the state’s 129 “Entrepreneur Friendly” communities, including Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties. The state’s Entrepreneur Friendly Community Initiative helps counties build entrepreneur and small-business strategies into their overall economic development efforts.

The six-month process helps communities identify strengths, weaknesses, resources and eye-opening best practices to help them build and sustain an enabling business environment.

Whether you are starting or growing a small business in Georgia, we want you to be successful. In fact, 1,016 companies received one-on-one assistance from the department’s Entrepreneur &Small Business division during the 2016 fiscal year. From conception to expansion, our team is ready, willing and able to assist.

Georgia’s victory in small business is also a result of strong leadership of Gov. Nathan Deal, a true advocate for small businesses who has done an incredible job of creating a pro-business environment. Furthermore, Deal has declared March 13-17 as Georgia Small Business Week, when he encourages all Georgians to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements made by small businesses across the state.

During the week, we will also celebrate Georgia’s four “Small-Business Rock Stars,” that have risen to the top as outstanding, unique and impactful small businesses. These companies have shown increases in revenue, sales, exporting, product lines, jobs and economic impact. Additionally, the companies have shown a dedication to creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit. On Monday, a panel of judges will select the Rock Stars from a pool of 135 nominations.

In Augusta, and all over the state, small businesses are finding access to everything they need to remain competitive in the market and meet the growing demands of their customers.

To learn more about how we can help your small business grow and excel, please visit: www.georgia.org/small-business.

Augusta is definitely a top spot for small business to thrive in our state. I recently connected with theClubhou.se in Augusta, a technology-oriented incubator. The group provides individuals with the space, guidance and network necessary to tackle the challenges they may face as a new company.

Located in a historic schoolhouse, theClubhou.se is a place of ideas that focus on knowledge, creativity and implementation through two main efforts: learning and prototyping, and co-working and business incubation. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out – you should!

Co-founder of theClubhou.se, Eric Parker, is one of the nation’s leading innovation architects. Parker is always eager to share his insight with other communities looking to create a similar business in their local area. While the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s small-business team receives more than 1,000 inquiries a year from all over the state, anyone close to the Augusta region is pointed in theClubhou.se’s direction to see if solid connections can be made.

The metro Augusta region also is home to many of the state’s 129 “Entrepreneur Friendly” communities, including Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties. The state’s Entrepreneur Friendly Community Initiative helps counties build entrepreneur and small-business strategies into their overall economic development efforts.

The six-month process helps communities identify strengths, weaknesses, resources and eye-opening best practices to help them build and sustain an enabling business environment.

Whether you are starting or growing a small business in Georgia, we want you to be successful. In fact, 1,016 companies received one-on-one assistance from the department’s Entrepreneur &Small Business division during the 2016 fiscal year. From conception to expansion, our team is ready, willing and able to assist.

Georgia’s victory in small business is also a result of strong leadership of Gov. Nathan Deal, a true advocate for small businesses who has done an incredible job of creating a pro-business environment. Furthermore, Deal has declared March 13-17 as Georgia Small Business Week, when he encourages all Georgians to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements made by small businesses across the state.

During the week, we will also celebrate Georgia’s four “Small-Business Rock Stars,” that have risen to the top as outstanding, unique and impactful small businesses. These companies have shown increases in revenue, sales, exporting, product lines, jobs and economic impact. Additionally, the companies have shown a dedication to creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit. On Monday, a panel of judges will select the Rock Stars from a pool of 135 nominations.

In Augusta, and all over the state, small businesses are finding access to everything they need to remain competitive in the market and meet the growing demands of their customers.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Mary Ellen McClanahan/Director of Entrepreneur & Small Business Division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development

 

Davidson Fine Arts and CT Walker have been named National Magnet Schools of Excellence by the Magnet Schools of America, the national association for magnet and theme-based schools.

Magnet School of Excellence Awards are only given to a select group of magnet schools. Schools of Excellence are eligible to receive monetary awards and are eligible to be named the nation’s top Elementary, Secondary, or New & Emerging Magnet School. One of the Schools of Excellence will also be selected to win $5,000 and the Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award, which is considered the most prestigious magnet school award in the nation.

To receive a national merit award, members of Magnet Schools of America must submit a detailed application that is scored by a panel of educators. These schools are judged and scored on their demonstrated ability to raise student academic achievement, promote racial and socioeconomic diversity, provide integrated curricula and instruction, and create strong family and community partnerships that enhance the school’s magnet theme.

Source: Augusta CEO

Backers of a business incubator in downtown Augusta say the project could once again make the historic Woolworth Building the “heart of commerce” in the central business district.

And, in the process, make Augusta more hip among millennial entrepreneurs.

The project at the corner of Eighth and Broad streets, known as the Augusta Innovation Zone, is being touted as a co-working space where young entrepreneurs can rent everything from a single desk all the way up to a 3,000-square-foot office suite.

Envisioned as a smaller version of the Atlanta Tech Village, the proposed startup accelerator would occupy all 43,000 square feet of the Woolworth Building on the southwest corner of the intersection, plus parts of the Johnson Building at the southeast corner.

“This will return the historical significance back to Eighth and Broad – and we’re really excited about it,” said Tommy Wofford, co-founder and CEO of the Augusta-based tech company MealViewer and one of the project’s six investors.

The other Augusta Innovation Zone partners include former Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Unisys Vice President Tom Patterson, Meybohm Vice President John Cates and Augusta restaurateur George Claussen and his sister Virginia, a marketing and brand-management executive for Copenhaver’s consulting firm and weekday radio show.

Wofford and Cates said at an information session Thursday that the group hopes to open the facility by the time the state’s $50 million Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center at the Augusta Uni­versity Riverfront Campus is completed in the middle of next year.

Cates said space will be sold in membership tiers, with the Woolworth Building’s 17,000-square-foot ground floor housing the least-expensive spaces, including “hot desks” where budding entrepreneurs get a temporary desk with access to shared printers, copiers and a receptionist.

The mid-level tier would consist of dedicated desks with secure storage compartments, while the top membership package would include actual office space fabricated out of used 20- to 40-foot shipping containers capable of housing three to six employees.

Startup companies that grow beyond that can seek larger spaces on the 13,000-square-foot second floor.

The idea is for startup companies to “graduate up,” Cates said.

“If you look at Atlanta Tech Village, the top floor has well-established companies that started on the first floor,” he said.

Rents have not been finalized, but the investors say they plan to keep costs low by operating the incubator as a nonprofit entity.

Above the second-floor offices are plans for a rooftop bar that would be managed by Claussen, co-owner of the Southbound Smokehouse barbecue restaurant and the Friends with Benefits Fund event promotion organization. The 12,000-square-foot entertainment area would feature a small stage area and space where restaurant startups could test menu concepts.

For startup founders and employees who want to live close to the space, the second floor of the Johnson Building – the first floor already is partly occupied with commercial tenants – will be developed into about 12 to 15 apartments.

“Millennials want ‘live, work and play,’” Wofford said. “What that really means is not all three things – it’s all things at once. They want to live where they work, work where they live and they want all of it to be fun. So this helps create that.”

The Johnson Building, owned by Dallas Hooks of Evans-based Journey Real Estate Investments, is more than a decade older than the Woolworth Building but is in better condition. The former Woolworth store was constructed in 1939 but has sat unused since it closed in 1991 and is in need of a full renovation. It was bought in 2015 by local developer and hotelier T.R. Reddy.

Cates said the Augusta Innovation Zone partners have agreements with both building owners to use the space. The group expects the entire project to cost in the neighborhood of $5 million.

The price will be worth it, however, if the incubator succeeds in helping Augusta become better known for innovation.

“I know this may all seem like pie in the sky, but this works,” Cates said during Thursday’s presentation. “It’s working all over the country and there’s absolutely no reason – with Fort Gordon and with all the great people like you here – why it couldn’t work in Augusta.”

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Author: Damon Cline/Business Editor