AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – If you’re driving from Fort Gordon to downtown Augusta, you would probably take Gordon Highway.
The 11-mile stretch has been around for a long time, but it’s changed since the 1980’s and 90’s.
“Gordon Highway was very busy, very bustling. It was really the main thoroughfare through our city,” Darren Smith said.
Now, many describe it as desolate. There are vacant lots, empty buildings and for sale signs up all over the place.
“It’s an extreme eyesore for people that are going back and forth by there going to and from work and downtown and so forth,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said.
Gordon Highway used to be the place people went to buy cars. Today, there aren’t many dealerships left.
Along the roadway, you’ll also find a closed bowling alley, run down motels, two closed movie theaters, a closing K-Mart, an empty grocery store, an abandoned mini golf course… the list goes on and on.
“You know. It’s just like a cancer, you know. One business goes out, then another, then another,” Lockett said.
Then there’s the big one. The Regency Mall. It closed about 15 years ago.
Smith Tire Company Owner Darren Smith believes the old mall is the reason Gordon Highway has been slowly dying.
“Anytime you have an older dilapidated building like that… that’s pretty much an eyesore to the community. I don’t think it’s attractive for new businesses to come to the area,” he said.
Since the mall closed, plenty of title pawn and quick loan businesses have popped up. There are more than 10 of them along the strip.
One of the biggest complaints from business owners on Gordon Highway is that the medians are not kept clean.
Right down the road, there is a median that looks different because Smith and other business owners got $30,000 together to beautify it — hoping the city would do the same.
That never happened though.
Smith and Lockett both agree the city has missed several opportunities, including a big one with the Regency Mall.
“The county had an opportunity to buy that area back in the late 90’s for a relatively small amount and put all of the government services into one location, which would have been to the great benefit of the taxpayers of Richmond County,” Smith said.
The city has considered creating tax districts or enterprise zones for Gordon Highway, but no changes have been made. Still, city leaders say the creation of a bus depot near the Regency Mall, Sizemore Security moving into the old Gerald Jones dealership, and a $14 million median and lighting project… will help the gateway.
“Anything right now is certainly positive. I think we’re getting some focus to be put make on Gordon Highway and south of Gordon Highway,” Smith said.