What Lies in Store for Eighth Street?
When Groucho’s Deli opened downtown in November, Cam Spears, owner of the Columbia-based sandwich shop, told me he thought the Augusta Common and Eighth Street would eventually become the center of downtown Augusta.
If that’s true, Augusta is a long way from it. But I’ve always thought Eighth Street had a lot of potential, and the pieces appear to be coming together for Eighth Street to be a sneaky-fun part of downtown.
Humanitree House and Le Chat Noir have been holding down the fort for quite a while now when it comes to food and culture on that short strip between Broad and Greene streets. But for the most part, the area remains pretty uneventful as Augustans’ downtown revitalization efforts remain focused on the upper end of Broad Street.
Fortunately, that has slowly started to change. Groucho’s has given people in that area (myself included) a solid lunch spot. This was also the first week I noticed that construction on the soon-to-be 2nd City Distilling Co., an offshoot of Edgefield, S.C.-based Carolina Moon, is finally underway. The distillery’s owners initially planned to open in early 2019, and they are reportedly still planning to open this spring. That means Eighth Street will have downtown Augusta’s first and (for now) only small-batch distillery, and its spot on the Savannah River will make for a great atmosphere for visitors.
2nd City’s distilling process (mash room, distillation, bottling) will all happen under the roof of the 6,000-square-foot building at 4 Eighth St., which used to be Cafe 209. The distillery will also feature a tasting room, retail space and a wide selection of whiskey, vodka, gin and rum as opposed to just moonshine.
Overall, co-owner David Long said the vibe will be similar to Carolina Moon but “with a little bit of polish on it.” No doubt there are plenty of Augustans who will be waiting to get in the doors when it opens this spring.
On the other side of Broad Street, at the corner of Eighth and Greene, a new coffee shop called The Foundry recently opened. A venture of Augusta University’s Wesley Foundation, it’s primarily a resource and community hub for students and is currently only open on certain days. But The Foundry’s director, Nicole Muns, said the shop is also open to the public during certain hours.
There could still be plans for a bakery on Eighth Street as well, although there hasn’t been any progress made at the space since the owners of Athens-area bakery The Comerian bought it in 2017. Uwe Happek, a German-born physics professor at the University of Georgia, baker and co-owner of The Comerian with his wife Angela, had planned to get the bakery underway at 314 Eighth St. as early as last spring. That hasn’t happened, and hopefully I’ll hear more about that sooner rather than later.
A renewed Eighth Street will hopefully spur further development on neighboring streets. Alison South put the final touches on its new offices at the corner of Seventh and Broad streets last summer, and part of the Aiken-based agency’s vision has been to lead the way in growing what some of the employees referred to as SoBro, or south Broad. It was an intentionally bold investment into the rough-around-the-edges side of town, a move that summed up the agency’s desire to join the Miller Theater in investing in the area’s economy.
“They’re part of a great group to keep that vital heartbeat going over there, but we wanted to be the nuance down here,” firm Branding President Ron Turner said last summer.
Around a quarter of downtown’s 1.5 million square feet of office space is still vacant, according to a July report from The Augusta Chronicle. The east end of Broad Street is more undeveloped than the west. It will take more companies like Alison South stepping up and investing in the area for spots like Eighth Street to reach their full potential sooner rather than later. When it comes to the near future, I’m sure 2nd City will keep plenty of us occupied.