AUGUSTA — When Michael Hall starts his job on Feb. 1, he’ll have a short commute.

As the new executive director of the Augusta Downtown Alliance, he’ll be living in the same neighborhood where he works.

“I’m going through apartment choices now,” Hall said.

Alliance President Tobias Parkhurst made the announcement Wednesday, bringing to a close a two-month national search.

“One thing that was very clear in the minds of merchants, board members and stakeholders was the desire for a new perspective,” Parkhurst said. “Not necessarily someone from out of town, but someone who could bring some fresh ideas and different experience.”

In recent months, downtown Augusta has undergone a period of transition as businesses have moved to other locations or closed, voluntarily or otherwise, and development plans have been announced. Last week, Stacy’s Hallmark, which has been in the downtown for more than 40 years, announced it is closing and the law firm of Lipman & Katz announced it is moving to a location off Civic Center Drive. Earlier this year, an out-of-state building owner who refused to upgrade his building to meet city codes forced three businesses to close temporarily. Of those, Gagliano’s Italian Bistro decided not to reopen.

Parkhurst described Hall as an ideas-to-action type of person with the ability to identify what’s unique about a place.

“It’s been a long time since someone told me something about Augusta that I hadn’t heard before,” Parkhurst said. “He’s been thinking about downtown Augusta — new ways to attack our challenges and new ways to look at downtown, the city and the state.”

Hall, 32, with master’s degrees in both communications and architectural conservation, said he has found a way to combine both of those interests in this position.

In pursuing his 2014 architectural conservation degree from the University of Edinburgh, he said he worked on projects that were planning-oriented in historic areas, including Durham in northern England.

“The way the dots connect for me is the marketing and promotion,” he said. “Downtown Augusta needs a way to be promoted to attract new business.”

There is, he said, a natural evolution to downtowns that leads to turnover.

“Downtowns are moving to niche stores,” he said. “That’s where I think we need to move with Augusta.”

Hall said one of his first priorities will be updating the alliance’s website to include an inventory of available properties as Cincinnati, another city with a riverfront, has done, showcasing the merits of what it means to be in the downtown.

Parkhurst said Hall’s research has given him an understanding of what kind of businesses and what kind of names they should have to create a sense of place and have some success.

Hall will take on the position four and a half months after Steve Pecukonis stepped down as the alliance’s first executive director.

Parkhurst said the job description remains essentially the same. What’s different, he said, is that the alliance has matured as an organization and its members have a better idea of what they want to accomplish.

“If downtown doesn’t change with the times, it will disappear,” he said. “Every business that closes — it’s too bad, but it’s also an opportunity.”

The Augusta Downtown Alliance is a non-profit membership organization that is working to develop a thriving downtown community by fostering business growth, improving the region’s quality of life and promoting downtown Augusta.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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