From a modest office in downtown Augusta, Georgia Richard Fletcher is trying to change his world. A native of South Carolina, Richard sees the need, the opportunity and the challenge in redeveloping depressed and failing downtown areas in communities throughout the Southeast.
Richard’s experiences walking European cities while attending the Charles Daniel Center for Urban Studies in Genoa, Italy laid the foundation for his interest in building great urban places.
Says Fletcher, “Architects and their clients are too preoccupied with designing icons, making statements, and building monuments (with ample parking). It is not enough to design great buildings. What makes villages, towns and cities great are not the buildings, but the spaces between the buildings. We as architects need to “get that.”
In his twenty-five years in architecture Richard has designed numerous school, church, recreation and residential projects, but his focus is changing. An urban planner at heart and a twenty-year veteran of the North Augusta Planning Commission, Fletcher feels zoning laws have critically injured the hearts of many American cities and towns including his beloved North Augusta.
“It is ironic that the legacies of zoning (i.e. auto exhaust, toxic stormwater runoff, forest destruction) and its separated uses are far worse than the noxious conditions zoning laws were intended to protect us from. It is convenient to blame developers for these problems, but developers are simply following ordinances that favor automobiles, that discourage traditional building patterns, and that tacitly give incentives to consume open land.”
Richard served for twelve years as Town Architect for Hammond’s Ferry, a traditional neighborhood project fronting on the Savannah River in North Augusta. This position gave Richard the opportunity to visit historic districts and TND projects throughout the Southeast where he found hope for towns and cities wanting to improve their urban districts. Thanks to thinkers, visionaries, planners and designers involved in the New Urbanism, Smart Growth, and Green Building movements, there is growing awareness that the density and mix of uses found in urban neighborhoods offers a better quality of life than the land-consuming isolating monotony of suburbia.
Richard intends to practice what he preaches, and has invested in two properties in downtown North Augusta where he is planning a multi-story apartment/condominium project. He is optimistic for a renaissance in downtown North Augusta. Richard is a better dish washer than cook, an occasional artist, a fair guitar player, an addicted golfer, an armchair naturalist, and he is basking in the glory of Clemson’s second football national championship.