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Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 2:06pm

Historic Black Neighborhoods Embrace Future

Updated: 6 years ago.
The revitalization of two historic African American neighborhoods in Augusta is moving forward. After decades of neglect the area has seen its first new home sale.

This week the first new house was sold under a project to revitalize two historic African-American communities in Augusta.

For decades the Laney Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods have been plagued by abandoned properties and overgrown lots.

The neglect turned the area into a hot spot for crime.

Augusta officials say the $37 million effort to tear down those boarded up homes and build new ones is breathing new life into the communities.

The money comes from a $1-a-night hotel tax passed in 2007.

Chester Wheeler is with Augusta’s Community Development Department. He says the sale of the project’s first new home is a milestone.

"There were a lot of nay-sayers who did not believe that it could be done and I think we showed all of Augusta that it could happen," says Wheeler.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver says he hopes the city’s initial investment will attract private developers looking for a good deal in the down economy.

"A recession is not a bad time to plan and really lay a foundation for moving ahead in the future," says Copenhaver. "I believe that’s what we’ve done in Laney Walker/Bethlehem and selling this first home speaks to that."

Copenhaver says the revitalized area will be a good draw for families because it’s close to several magnet schools and the Georgia Health Sciences University.

Sales of three other homes there are currently in negotiations.