Rezoning for outlet mall at the Village at Riverwatch to go before planning commission



Plans to bring an outlet mall to the Village at Riverwatch will go before Augusta planning commissioners next week.

A petition to rezone 50 acres behind the Comcast and Delta Air Lines buildings on River Shoals Parkway to make way for an outlet mall is headed to the planning commission Monday. The outlet center adjoins the Cabela’s Outpost store, which is set to open March 20, and a 14-auditorium movie theater that is to open later this year, according to a rezoning report provided to The Augusta Chronicle by the city’s Planning and Development Department.

A site plan attached to the report shows 375,000 square feet of commercial space spread throughout 26 buildings of varying sizes. The development is planned for the back corner of the property, but no tenants or potential retailers are listed in the summary.

Atlanta-based Ben Carter Enterprises is developing the site off River Watch Parkway.

“We’re currently working on design and project feasibility, and having early conversations with city leaders as well as particular retailers,” said developer Ben Carter, when reached Monday by telephone. “We’ll have more to update in the next week or so.”

Carter, the founder of the commercial real estate firm, said he would release more information about the project during a news conference next week. The mayor’s office sent out a release Monday announcing that the conference will be held Feb. 5 at the Village at Riverwatch development.

Rumors of the proposed retail center have been circulating for weeks, but developers and local officials would not confirm details of the project.

A Web site and online brochure that links back to Ben Carter Enterprises dubs the project “Premier Outlets of Georgia @ Augusta.” The brochure describes 25 acres of retail and restaurant space set to open in the spring of 2016. It shows McDonald’s, a hotel, a pharmacy, a bank, an auto business and a fitness facility as potential uses for the property.

Carter said he could not comment directly about the information provided by the city or found online.

Ben Carter Enterprises was formed in 1993 and has developed several shopping centers and outlet malls in Georgia and Florida, including the Mall of Georgia in Gwinnett County and St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville, Fla. The company is building a similar development in Savannah with outlet mall-giant Tanger.

At the city’s planning commission meeting, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the municipal building, developers will seek to rezone the property from light industry and multiple-family residential to general business.

A 260-unit apartment complex had been planned on the property last year but was later rejected by developers who cited fears of an oversaturated apartment market. Instead, a large parking lot will go where the apartments were scheduled, according to the rezoning report.

The report, prepared by city planning and development staffers Paul DeCamp and Bob Austin, said that the Augusta Canal Authority supports the proposed outlet mall. The canal adjoins the east end of the tract. The Planned Development Riverfront Review Board will need to approve the intended land use and other aspects of the site plan.

The report recommends approval of the petition. A final decision on any rezoning issues must be made by the full commission.