Organization looks to secure historic value in city property for sale

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News 12 at 11 O'Clock / Wednesday, May 23, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta is sitting on millions of dollars in vacant properties, so now, the city is selling it, but not to anyone.

"It's just not a fire-sale to generate dollars," city administrator Fred Russell said. " We're looking to strategically develop these properties in a way that benefits the entire community."

Historic Augusta says one of those benefits is preserving some of the properties' architecture.

"We would like to help the city find a suitable buyer who will do good things with the historic properties," Erick Montgomery with Historic Augusta said.

For instance, they say the old railroad depot on Reynolds St. is significant because Augusta was the first city in Georgia to have a railroad.

They are also concerned about the old library. Built in the 60's, the library was one of the reasons Historic Augusta was founded. It replaced a Victorian Era building, but years later, the organization says the library is now architecturally significant.

In fact, Historic Augusta is so concerned about the properties, they have asked for historic preservation easements on the southern railroad depot, the old library, the old chamber of commerce building, and the Fleet Management buildings.

"[That would mean] any changes in the future would have to be approved by Historic Augusta," Erick Montgomery said.

However, the city still owns the property, and says it still has to look out for financial interests.

"So I'm not too sure we would want to strap ourselves and give a third party an easement," Russell said.

Russell did add he'd be willing to let the commission entertain the idea.

Historic Augusta says the easements would simply guarantee the preservation of the properties, but they're hoping buyers would preserve the architecture simply for the tax breaks.

The organization tells News 12 buyers looking to preserve history would be eligible for breaks that could cut development costs in half.