No plans in place for old train depot?

Monday, July 8, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A big downtown Augusta project might be in jeopardy. According to city documents, the Old Depot plans were supposed to be turned in a week ago. But the Downtown Development Authority says there's confusion among Augusta city leaders and the law department.

According to the city, the developers did not meet the deadline to turn in plans. But, the city has also not kept a promise to Unysis, a factor that could collapse the deal.

Unysis would lose parking if the area gets developed so Augusta is required to come up with 500 additional parking spots for Unysis before things can move forward.

It turns out there is no parking plan and it's just one of the issues.

"When you look at the depot building there, that building there is supposed to be turned into plans based on commercial space," said Ben Hasan, Augusta Commission, District 6. But Hasan is concerned there is no plan to show for it.

The city says the depot developers, Bloc Global did not meet the due diligence period, according to an city email.

However, Bloc Global wrote to the city, saying they have all the need but at the judgment of the Downtown Development Authority, they wanted an extension for 60 days.

"The basic information, we don't have it, we don’t have a site plan, we don’t have an architectural drawing at this point. We have none of that," said Hasan. The District 6 commissioner claims the developer was supposed to have it on the June 30th deadline.

The administrator’s office wrote to leaders the city does not have the needed documents from the developer or Downtown Development Authority-- the business plan, project budget, and project plans.

News 12 spoke to the Downtown Development Authority, who says some commissioners are confused, and city memos have been misleading. According to Margret Woodard, the Augusta Law Department has the required documents but adds, site plans and architectural drawings were not required for the June 30th deadline even though leaders say they were.

Woodard tells News 12, the plans that the legal department is saying it never got, are not due until the developer and city close on the property in August.

But here's something the city does have, letters Unysis sent them. When we requested information, the legal department told News 12, it does not exist--that they don't have documents that meet our request.
But we were able to get a picture of a letter stamped by the administrator's office "received" on October 26, 2018. It confirms, the city does have the letter.

In part, here's what the lawyers for Unysis wrote to the city,
“...Discovery Plaza is concerned that Bloc Global and the other parties to whom this letter is addressed have not fully considered the Parking Agreement that grants Discovery Plaza and Unysis the rights to use approxiamately 530 parking spaces existing on the property.." Adding, We are hopeful the proposed development on the Property continues to materialize and believe it could be a great amenity to downtown but we do not want the incorporation of the aforementioned parking rights to be left unresolved.."

"500 spaces was promised to Unysis that has not been resolved," said Hasan.

The city had not responded to the letters. Meanwhile, Hasan says the city could be on the hook for $14 million for an old train project that he believes is derailing.

Augusta agreed to the millions in bonds, while the developers come up with the rest. Some leaders fear the city has not put together the bigger picture.

"As a commission, we've looked at it in bits and pieces, bits and pieces." Hasan says the pieces could fall a part instead of coming together.

The Downtown Development Authority says they will, on behalf of Bloc Global, turn in some of those plans, even as early as Tuesday commission.

The project is supposed to happen in two construction phases but the first phase is the only one guaranteed. If the second phase ends up not happening, we're told the city would still pay the $14 million.

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