Hotchkiss: Want to buy a mall? There’s one available — for a price

My first two paying jobs were in a mall.

 

In high school I worked the night shift helping strip old wax and applying new wax to the entire Statesboro Mall. About a year later, in the same mall, I got one of the most coveted jobs a teen could get in town – an attendant at the Take Ten video arcade.

(For millennials: A video arcade is like a Dave & Buster’s, but without food and alcohol.)

I’ve had malls on the brain recently because of the story I wrote July 23 about south Augusta development in general and what to do with the dead Regency Mall in particular. Digging into the mall’s history, I found out the mall’s been dead for about the same time span that it was alive.

About the only thing everyone can agree on regarding Regency is that it’s never going to be a retail mall again. Ever.

From there, the redevelopment suggestions have been all over the map. Outlet mall. Judicial center or other government offices. Sports arena. Studio space for filmmakers. Someone even wrote The Augusta Chronicle a letter to the editor in 1999 suggesting a Native American tribe could turn the mall into a casino.

Last week I got an email about Regency from Augusta resident Bob Trescott, who lists years of experience in economic development, marketing and real estate. His idea, which he laid out in an essay he posted online last December, is to make Regency into another Brainport.

Brainport is a “high-tech growth accelerator” in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, and is touted as “the smartest square kilometer” in the world. Dozens of mostly tech firms work on its campus in a collaborative environment that has made it a thriving business incubator.

Regency is centrally located. It’s partially developed. And a lot of the high-tech companies that would be targeted to participate – in such areas as health care, cyber and nuclear power – already are in the area.

It certainly adds to the list of possibilities. The latest discussions about the Regency property seem to be centering around a possible mixed-use development of residential and commercial.

 

HOW MUCH? Regency today is a gutted shell of a building at more than 800,000 square feet, and it’s what a real-estate agent might call a “fixer-upper.” Richmond County’s tax assessor last appraised the building at $4.2 million.

Regency’s owner, according to a listing on a realty website, is asking $63 million.

Some folks have said that figure is a tad high.

I realize the following comparison, from a real estate perspective, is apples and oranges. But for $63 million, you could buy every house and every undeveloped lot currently for sale in Columbia County’s Jones Creek subdivision – four times over.

Also:

For $63 million, you could cover all the expenses to run Golden Harvest Food Bank for the next two years. By 2016 estimates, that would feed almost 800,000 families.

For $63 million, you could open 200 licensed Starbucks coffee shops. (It doesn’t franchise, by the way. You’d run them, but Starbucks would own them.)

For $63 million, you could commute by commercial jet from Augusta to Atlanta and back every day for the next 431 years.

Or you could make one whopper of an investment in south Augusta’s future.

 

OLD NEWS: While doing a story on the centennial for Insurance Services of Augusta, I accidentally found out that it’s not the business’ centennial. Insurance Services is even older, but I don’t think there are immediate plans to remove “Established in 1917” from its stationery.

The company that is now Insurance Services actually was founded in 1902. But even at that age, it’s still not the oldest insurance provider in Augusta.

As near as I can tell, that distinction belongs to Dawson Taylor and Co. It started in 1866 as F. Phinizy and Co., by cotton merchant Ferdinand Phinizy. The company says it settled the majority of all insurance claims filed after Augusta’s savage 1916 fire.

Over the years the company became Phinizy and Taylor, then Dawson, Taylor and Sherman, and finally Dawson Taylor and Co. It’s still running today, with offices on Wheeler Road and in Waynesboro.

 

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