From the notebook of business editor Tim Rausch

Store Wars -- The Mall Strikes Back

In the epic battle for the hearts and minds of Augusta-area shoppers, it appears that Augusta Mall is winning the war.

Sources say the mall's outdoor "lifestyle center" addition under construction at the site of the former Macy's store is sucking most of the high-end retailers away from a rival lifestyle center project at River Watch Parkway and Interstate 20.

Face it, there's only so many upscale retailers to go around. Unlike Dollar Generals and nail salons (which we can't seem to get enough of) you can't have more than one Williams & Sonoma in a market the size of Augusta.

The backers of the River Watch Parkway project, called The Village at Riverwatch, earlier this week announced they were pushing completion of the project back nearly a year, reportedly to expand the shopping center to include more stores, restaurants and a hotel with an exhibition center.

A spokesman for the developer of the Village at Riverwatch developer, however, declined to disclose potential tenants at the site other than those already named: Dillard's, Belk and Starplex Cinemas.

Could the delay and concept tweak be a sign that most upscale retailers have already committed to Augusta Mall? Some in the real estate development industry think so.

The mall is owned by General Growth Properties Inc., a $3 billion real estate investment trust in Chicago that operates more than 220 malls throughout the U.S. The Village at Riverwatch project is being headed by Dallas-based MG Herring Group, which is no small potatoes, but is not in the same league as General Growth.

So when it comes to negotiating with a tenant, who do you think is carrying the bigger guns?

To be fair, the General Growth folks haven't disclosed any tenants at its lifestyle project other than Coldwater Creek and Coach. But they haven't changed their project mid-stream, either.

Perhaps Atlanta-based Cousins Properties saw the writing on the wall last year when it scuttled its plans for a lifestyle center at the intersection of River Watch Parkway and Furys Ferry Road. It later joined forces with the MG Herring Group to market the Village at Riverwatch site.

So what about the developers of the two other proposed lifestyle center-style projects in area (the Marshall Square project in Evans and the Atlanta-based Forum Development Group project on Walton Way Extension) that haven't even broke ground yet?

I'd say that if those projects make it to fruition, they're going to have a hard time finding high-end tenants -- once the mall and Riverwatch projects are finished feasting, there's not going to be anything left but scraps.

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Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 03/06/07 - 04:56 am
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I'm glad you mentioned the

I'm glad you mentioned the Marshall Square project in Evans. Drove by there yesterday and I don't see any of the old signs that illustrated it coming up. Now there are just signs that said the site is available. What's up with that? It's a huge piece of land that I hope develops into something more than Dollar General's and nail salons (as you also mentioned!). But you did forget to include cell phone stores (take your pick as to which one!), oil change shops, and tanning-bed salons!

LEO
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LEO 03/10/07 - 08:59 am
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Different subject: It's nice

Different subject: It's nice to see that the old Regency Mall made it to the www.deadmalls.com website. Check out some of the comments and see what some out-of-towners think of our local eyesore.

Mike27
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Mike27 03/12/07 - 01:30 pm
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I have said for years that I

I have said for years that I wish someone would turn Regency Mall into an outlet shopping center. I haven't been by there in a long time since I live in Atlanta now, but believe most of it is empty. There may not be a large enough market in Augusta for it, but I wonder. It could be a draw for a lot of the surrounding area.

glcondrey
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glcondrey 04/27/07 - 12:39 pm
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My son and his family

My son and his family recently moved to the Augusta area from Memphis, TN. We noticed the old Regency mall and thought it looked a lot like an old mall in Memphis that closed due to crime and shifting poplulation. The problem was solved when the owner leveled the mall and then sold the property to Wal Mart for a new super center. Wal Mart may not be the best answer but it sure beats an ugly empty mall that is not generating any revenue for the community. I know there is a Wal Mart super center on Dean's Bridge so maybe Target would be an option. Even cleared land would be an improvement.

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