June 4, 2013 DPR

Mayor Deke on The Miller

Mayor Deke Copenhaver              Wed 06/05/13

 copenhaver1

Having grown up writing and painting I’ve always been a strong supporter of the arts and the major role they play in contributing to the quality of life of our community as well as helping to strengthen our local economy.  With this in mind I am extremely excited to see new life breathed into the Miller Theater as a performance venue.

Throughout the nation as cities try to create a sense of place that sets them apart from other destinations more and more are realizing that the historic preservation and revitalization of existing theaters is one of the key ways to do just that.  So often I hear comparisons of Augusta to other cities like Columbus, Greenville and Charleston.  My reply to these comparisons has always been the same: as much as I love other cities I would rather concentrate on what makes Augusta unique and building on it in our ongoing revitalization efforts as opposed to trying to become just like any other city.  With regards to what makes our city unique, there are simply too many things to list in one blog but I can tell you with certainty that one of the things that truly sets us apart is our history which cannot be duplicated elsewhere as exemplified by the historic Miller Theater.

Nationally large scale urban redevelopment is seeking to focus a great deal of energy on the clustering of cities energies and resources in defined districts.  Here in Augusta we are doing this through a recent city proposal to Georgia Regents University to expand into a Mills Campus in the historic Sibley and King Mills as well as a Cultural Campus to include the Miller and Imperial Theaters.  The proposal includes the potential for a Performing Arts Center to be located on the city owned Depot Property adjacent to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The idea behind the effort is to capitalize on our existing arts infrastructure while adding to it through the new PAC in order to develop a thriving performing arts district.  In order to amplify the impact performing arts programs from the University could utilize existing spaces in the district bringing a swell of art students and performers into our urban core.  We’ve also engaged Artspace, the nation’s largest developer of affordable live/work spaces for artists, to further the process by providing local artists opportunities to reside within the district.  The Miller serves as an anchor to the district with its future success playing a pivotal role in the success of the Cultural Campus initiative.

As we look towards the future of our city and one of its greatest historic assets in the Miller Theater, I’ll close with a brief look into the past.  In 1972 as a four year old child I moved to Augusta with my family and took up residence at the Richmond Hotel while our home was being built.  I vividly remember my first impressions of Augusta as a hustling and bustling city and being amazed by the way it lit up at night.  I particularly remember the bright lights and majestic marquee of the Miller Theater just down the block from us.  As I watch the Miller coming back to life that mental image continually hangs in my head and I firmly believe it is indeed Miller time again.

 

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