The city of Augusta has at least $9 million in surplus real estate slated to eventually return to the tax rolls, but don’t expect the properties to hit the auction block soon.
The properties, including the former main library, the old Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce, Engine Company No. 3 on Reynolds Street, Augusta’s traffic engineering building on Prep Phillips Drive and the city’s construction shop, have a combined value of $9.3 million, an amount that could quickly close a 2012 budget shortfall.
Most are vacant and unused, but the city will take pains to ensure that whoever buys the properties has a plan to put them to good use, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.
“My personal opinion has always been that they’re non-revenue-generating assets, then we should not keep them on the balance sheet,” Copenhaver said. “But I do not want it to become a situation where people are speculating on city properties and warehousing them.”
Copenhaver said he expects City Administrator Fred Russell, who requested a meeting on the properties and other matters at 3 p.m. Tuesday, to “begin the dialogue” about what commissioners want the properties to become and to describe any interest in the sites.
The commission voted earlier this year to hire a real estate firm to market the properties.
A list of surplus city properties distributed at an April commission meeting includes several that are not vacant, including Engine Company No. 3 and the city’s Licensing and Inspections building on Marvin Griffin Road.
Licensing and Inspections Director Rob Sherman, who recently became a part of the city’s revamped Planning and Development Department, said his staff will move into the third floor of the Augusta Municipal Building when renovations are completed.
The Licensing and Inspections building, a 12,716-square-foot office and warehouse building, could appeal to industries seeking space in the area, especially with ongoing widening of Marvin Griffin Road, he said.
Russell has said the buyer interested in acquiring Television Park, the former WJBF headquarters on Reynolds that is adjacent to the former Golf & Gardens property, is also interested in buying the fire station.
Copenhaver said development of the entire riverfront, which includes two of the vacant city-owned properties and the dormant golf hall, is the best way to benefit the city.
“In my personal opinion, development is best done when you look at the riverfront as a whole,” he said.
Copenhaver and Commissioner Jerry Brigham also foresee an arrangement with the Augusta Land Bank Authority similar to the one used when the city moved to develop its transit depot property into a Walmart Neighborhood Market.
After negotiations through a Realtor with a buyer, the city transferred the land to the land bank, which will sell the property to the developer when the time comes.
“I would assume that would be the approach,” Copenhaver said.
“I would think that we would attempt to negotiate most of these properties, rather than put them on the auction block,” Brigham said.
Also on the agenda at the commission meeting is a closed-door discussion with lawyers and a discussion about the city's human resources department, some functions of which may be outsourced to Automatic Data Processing.