October 25, 2006
Now it's a done deal.
A Savannah-based company signed papers this afternoon to purchase six acres of land downtown, making way for high-rise condos overlooking the river, and changing Augusta's skyline.
As of today, the city no longer owns the land. It's now in the hands of developer Harry Kitchen, Jr..
While it took a minute to get this project approved, everybody seems to be looking forward to what it could bring.
"It's going to be a signature project for Augusta, Georgia," said Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
The condo project is expected to bring 700 new jobs and $6 million in tax revenue.
"You have to get people living back downtown," Copenhaver said. "It helps the businesses. It helps everybody. It increases the tax bases."
The Savannah-based Foxfield company has paid the $2 million, and now have the okay to break ground on these six acres on Reynolds Street.
A 182 unit upscale riverfront condo project is what they're building...an expected boost for a struggling city.
"You know, I can put North Augusta, Columbia County and all of the surrounding areas on alert," said Commissioner Betty Beard. "They are going to see a difference in Augusta."
And now that the project has the green light, its completion is expected to bring a big economic boom to the entire city, but perhaps no one's more excited that the business nearby.
George Harrison owns the Boll Weevil and Beamie's Café, in walking distance from the property.
"I think it's great," he told News 12. "I think it's going to make downtown better, for one thing, and gives a lot of viability across the board, people willing to come down here and live."
The project didn't get support from several city leaders, but downtown commissioner Betty Beard is sure they'll soon have a change of heart.
"I think they are going to change their minds when they see the progress, when they see what this will mean for the city of Augusta," she said.
And while we can only wait to see what kind of impact there is, one thing's for sure: the high-rise will certainly change the skyline of the city.
We're told some local historic preservationists don't want the city to get rid of the old railroad depot on the property. Of course, Mr. Kitchen now owns the land...but he says he will work to incorporate it into his project, possibly turning it into a grocery store.
With the election coming up, this has been a big week for the mayor.
Cal Ripken was here on Monday, now this deal has been signed, and he may have a big announcement later this week.
News 12 asked the mayor about that today, and he says all of this good news just happened to come in the same week; he says there was nothing strategic or political.
The DDA tells News 12 that construction for the condos was originally planned in two phases. Now we're told there are plans to do it in one.
The expected completion date is fall 2008.