Riverfront events center plans go nowhere again

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January 16, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The plan is for hundreds of thousands of your dollars to help build and run a new trade and event center...but commissioners aren't ready to pay up just yet.

Augusta Riverfront, LLC wants to work with the city to build a trade, exhibit, and event center on the river, right next to the Marriott.

The "TEE Center" project has been endorsed by the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Development Authority, but today the Commission voted not to approve the proposal for the second time.

Augusta Riverfront, LLC, a Billy Morris company, wants to build a 50,000 square foot trade center downtown on Reynolds Street to attract big events they say right now Augusta just can't handle. They say the plan would also help local hotels.

They want to build it on their property adjacent to the Marriott. The company's plan is to give the land to the city in exchange for the city agreeing to pay a quarter million dollars to operate the TEE Center.

Commissioners who voted against the proposal told News 12 that was one of the big concerns.

"Asking the city to come up with $250,000 a year for operational costs and another $100,000 a year for capital expenditures is probably a bit much," said Commissioner Joe Bowles.

"This is a priority project," said Barry White of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. "They determined that this was a priority project when the sales tax was passed, so we're going to keep it right in front of them, keep it on the radar screen."

When commissioners and other leaders were trying to pass SPLOST, this was one of the big projects they talked about. The holdup now is figuring out where they want to build it and how much money the city is willing to put into the project.

The Commission's next step is to form a three member committee along with City Administrator Fred Russell to talk with Mr. Morris' company and other companies to hopefully decide on the perfect location for the center.

Developers said they had done all they could to those plans to make it work.