Scuttlebiz: Augusta Concrete tract could be hot property

Hold on to your hats, folks.

 

It’s not every day that two acres of commercial property in Augusta’s central business district come up for sale – especially a tract along a major thoroughfare conveniently situated between the medical district and the downtown corridor.

But that’s exactly what you have in the 600 block of 13th Street, where American Concrete Inc. has its corporate headquarters and maintenance yard on the market for $1.6 million.

There’s no “for sale” signs on the property, sandwiched between Andy Jordan’s bike shop and the Healthsouth Walton Rehabilitation hospital, but there will be in the next week or two.

“We approached our neighbors to give them first rights,” company President T.J. Barton said. “But that didn’t generate any interest, so now we’re listing it.”

The 45-employee operation has been working toward offloading the 1.94-acre site across from John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School since it moved the ready-mix machines out to Appling nearly two years ago to be closer to Columbia County’s nonstop Develapalooza festival.

Of course, construction in Augusta’s urban core hasn’t been too shabby, either – a baseball stadium, a state-owned cyber training center, an expanded cancer research building and three hotels are nothing to sneeze at – but Barton says the company can easily serve downtown from its plants in south Augusta, Martinez and Graniteville.

Even with the CSX railroad alongside the property, it has served the Bartons well since it formed American Concrete in 1993 by acquiring Southern Roadbuilders’ ready-mix division (the family’s previous venture, Clausssen Concrete Co., is now part of the Colombian conglomerate Grupo Argos).

American Concrete’s three tracts are zoned “heavy industry.” That means you could build anything there from a candy shop to a cyanide factory.

Barton says he’d prefer to see the land used in a manner conducive to a modern central business district.

“I want to see downtown grow, so maybe something medical or residential,” he said. “I would not want to see heavy industry there.”

I imagine a lot of downtown stakeholders would agree, particularly since the property is less than a 3-minute drive from the city convention center and every major downtown hospital. In five minutes you can be at North Augusta’s baseball park.

I’m thinking the property will become medical offices. Or possibly an upscale residential complex similar to the nearby Canalside apartments. They could call it “Trackside.”

If you have the cash and a better idea, make a call to Barton or his real estate agent, James Schaffer at Summer House Realty, to cement the deal.

And in case you’re wondering where American Concrete will move its HQ and maintenance shop, it has acquired a nice parcel on the Columbia County side of Wheeler Road near Kendrick Paint & Body.

BUYING HOMES, KEEPING HOMES: As captivating as big cranes popping up in downtown Augusta is, American Concrete’s desire to move capacity toward the suburbs makes sense. Commercial projects are a comparatively small segment of the industry; two-thirds of all building activity is plain ol’ single-family home construction.

The good news on the home front is that foreclosure filings in metro Augusta continue falling along with the rest of the nation.

Irvine, Calif.-based ATTOM Data Solutions, keeper of the nation’s largest multisource property database, said in its Midyear 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report that nationwide foreclosure filings (default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions) were down 20 percent during the first six months of 2017 from the same period a year ago, and down 28 percent from two years ago.

Metro area foreclosures have fallen 19.4 percent during the first six months of the year compared to the previous year’s period, so we’re right in line with the rest of the country. In fact, Georgia’s only outlier was Savannah, whose first-half foreclosure rate didn’t rise or fall a single percentage point.

THE JET SET: If anything is stressing Savannah’s economy, it’s not demand for corporate aircraft. Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. announced this past week it delivered its 550th Gulfstream G550 business jet (MSRP: $62 million). The General Dynamics subsidiary employs 15,000 people worldwide, most of them in Savannah.

MORE JOBS, LOWER WAGES: Wells Fargo Senior Economist Mark Vitner said this past week in Georgia monthly employment commentary that many of the job gains appear to be in lower-paying industries.

Though nonfarm employment jumped 0.6 percent in June (about 27,400 net new jobs), more than a third of the jobs were in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is predominantly restaurant and bar workers. The report says the latest data from the Georgia Department of Revenue show individual income tax withholding payments up just 3.9 percent from the previous year and total personal income tax collections up just 3.1 percent, suggesting incomes aren’t keeping pace.

“Both are below the gains for the fiscal year as a whole, suggesting the mix of jobs being created in Georgia is now more heavily weighted toward lower paying industries,” the report says. “Hiring has clearly slowed in some higher paying industries.”

Atlanta, with 23,900 new jobs, accounted for the bulk of Georgia’s June job growth. The report stated that hiring also rose “solidly” in Augusta with 1,600 jobs.

DOWN ON THE PHARM: They’re going to be hiring soon over at AmbioPharm Inc. in North Augusta. The peptide and biopharmaceutical maker announced an expansion this past week that should create 100 jobs during the next five years at its facility in the North Augusta Industrial Park, where it is investing $18 million in new buildings totaling 50,000 square feet. Hiring starts in the second quarter of 2018.

OPEN HOUSE: If you’re looking for a pathway to a more lucrative career, say biopharmaceutical manufacturing, you might want to drop in to the open house event that Augusta Technical College is having at all area campuses July 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can learn more about technical education – it’s way more than “shop class” – and complete an application or learn about financial aid. Take a tour while you’re at it. And with campuses in Augusta, Grovetown, Thomson and Waynesboro, the “it’s too far away” excuse is full of more holes than a slice of Swiss. Fall semester begins Aug. 21.

SPEAKING OF BACK TO SCHOOL: Remember your parents complaining about all the money they shelled out for your school supplies. Me neither. But I’m just old enough to remember when all you had to bring was pencils and a couple of notebooks. Maybe a Trapper Keeper if you wanted to get all fancy. Now you practically need a line of credit at Staples and a registry list at Office Depot.

Nationally, back to school spending has increased 55 percent during the past 10 years, with the average family spending more than $100. But Peach State residents plan to spend less than $25, according to a recent survey by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates. Another surprise from the survey: Just 29.4 percent of respondents schedule their purchases around tax holidays.

I’d like to see someone study the percentage “school supply list” items that never get used. There are enough crayons, colored pencils and glue sticks at my house to re-create the Watts Towers in Martinez. And that’s just from two kids.

BLACK HOLE SUN: Georgia is in the trajectory of best places to view the highly-anticipated total solar eclipse Aug. 21. And the home-sharing service Airbnb suggests the event is having a major impact on rentals in the Peach State, particularly in north Georgia markets.

The company reports 1,400 Airbnb guest arrivals in Georgia during the week of the eclipse, a 1,390 percent increase from the previous week, when the sun will look the same as it always does. The Georgia cities of Cleveland, Morganton and Hiawassee have so far had the most eclipse-related bookings.

“For many families this will be first time experiencing a solar eclipse together, and possibly even using Airbnb for the first time as well,” said Will Burns, the director of public policy for Airbnb.

EVEN DARKER IN COLUMBIA: I take no pleasure in promoting tourism in other cities – I’d prefer metro Augusta residents spend locally as much as possible – but I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention the best place in our area to see the eclipse is Columbia .

Heck, astronomy experts say it’s one of the best places in the nation. Columbia visitors and residents will experience – at 2:41 p.m. – the best coverage of any East Coast metro area, ranging from 2 minutes, 30 seconds up to 2 minutes, 36 seconds of darkness in the middle of the afternoon.

Tourism gurus there have turned, as they should, the three-minute experience into a weekendlong event by branding Columbia the “Total Eclipse Capital of the East Coast” and programming more than 100 eclipse-related activities into the weekend. Hey, why not? Folks in Louisville, Ky., turn a two-minute horse race into a three-day party.

So don’t feel bad about spending some money in Columbia during the eclipse. You know they’re going to give it all back – and then some – during the first week in April.

LOCAL WHINE: Wine Spectator’s August issue just hit the stands and, once again, there’s a noticeable lack of area eateries in its 2017 Restaurant Awards, which highlights establishments offering “the best wine selections.”

Check the list at WineSpectator.com and you’ll notice the only place around here to make the cut is The Willcox in Aiken. The next nearest establishment is The Overlook at Great Waters, which is over by Lake Oconee in Eatonton, Ga.

Of course, we all know one the world’s most extensive – and expensive – wine cellars are found right here in Augusta at 2604 Washington Road.

It’s just really difficult to get a reservation there.

 

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.

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