Regency Mall closed but not 'abandoned'

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Richmond County fire investigators want to know who's responsible for setting multiple fires over the weekend inside the abandoned Regency Mall.

In all, five different fires were set in places scattered across the property. There isn't much damage, but the bigger concern could be that people had access to the property to commit the crimes in the first place.

This is a building time forgot, and it's eerie to turn back the clock. It's been a decade since the Regency Mall closed for good, but store fronts are still visible. Banners still hang from the ceiling. Even plastic plants remain in their place. It should be untouched, but one look at the floor, and it's evident people have been here. There's broken glass, wires, empty cigarette boxes and beer cans. It has been closed, but it has not been abandoned.

It didn't take us long to find our way inside, and once we did, we heard footsteps. We were not alone.

Douglas Crawford just bought a home that backs right up to the mall's property. For years, his house has been abandoned, too, but Crawford is breathing new life into it.

"I liked the location, and I liked the house," he said.

He also told us there's a lot more work to be done. Like his neighbor, the Regency Mall, it seems time left this house behind as well. He hadn't heard about the fires set this weekend or the fact people have access to the building next door, so now he wonders if buying this house was the right move.

"Being so close, it does kind of give me the thought I made a mistake," he said.

But then again, he's happy with his new home. He's renovating it because he sees potential, and he hopes Augusta leaders will also see potential in the Regency Mall. He's hoping it can have new life, too.

"That would be nice, because it would definitely increase my property value if they'd do something about it," he said.

Until then, the closed mall will be open to anyone who can find a way in, including those who are up to no good.

We didn't see any evidence of the fires inside today, but then again, we didn't go very far, and we didn't stay long. It's just not safe.

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