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Fifth Street Bridge project expected to draw large crowds to downtown Augusta

Once the Fifth Street Bridge reopens later this month, it’s expected to attract more people to downtown Augusta, and Greg LaBelle looks forward to turning some of those people into customers.

LaBelle co-owns Two Dudes and a Boat Kayak Rentals located near the bridge in the Fifth Street Marina. He and his business partner, Steven Cox, not only rent out kayaks but also offer guided kayak tours of the Savannah River for groups and corporations.

“We are so fortunate that the pedestrian bridge will have a bird’s eye view of Two Dudes and the entire area our kayakers paddle,” LaBelle said. “Our number one gain from this will be the exposure to the outdoor recreation Augusta has to offer, specifically on the river.”

He said this exposure will lead to increased business and greater growth potential, including possibly adding a second location.

Dr. Hameed Malik, Director of Engineering for the City of Augusta, said the bridge is undergoing extensive renovations, including replacing its railings and adding a shaded plaza.

“From an architectural perspective, the goal of the project was to preserve the historic integrity of the structure while transforming its use from a roadway to a safe and engaging pedestrian walkway,” Malik said. “A History Walk containing graphics highlighting the bridge’s history is planned for both the Georgia and South Carolina sides of the bridge.”

He said the project will also add new features to the structure, including art and kids’ zones. Designers are making substantial repairs to the bridge, such as its steel girders.

“Lights will be added to the underside of the bridge,” Malik said. “These will allow further illumination at night and can also change colors for holiday celebrations.”

The total cost of the project is $11 million.

The Fifth Street Bridge project is expected to be a big draw in downtown Augusta. (Photos by Josh Heath)

Margaret Woodard, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority of Augusta, said the project will lead to greater business growth in that part of the city.

“The Fifth Street Bridge will attract visitors and residents with its many amenities,” Woodard said. “The additional foot traffic should act as a catalyst to attract additional shops and restaurants to lower Broad Street.”

The DDA is responsible for overseeing several initiatives, including city beautification, business development, and parking management.

LaBelle is excited about the potential benefits of increased foot traffic on and around the bridge for his business.

“We anticipate our business grows more in the next year than we have in the past two combined,” he said.

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