A deal transferring ownership of the Augusta Public Transit bus depot to the Medical College of Georgia Foundation is inching forward and expected to be finalized by December, according to James Osborne, the foundation’s president and CEO.
The sale would allow the foundation to move forward with its plans of creating a downtown gateway to the medical district and redeveloping the 15th Street corridor that runs along Wall Street and Walton Way toward Chafee Avenue.
Redevelopment plans call for a future hotel, upscale restaurants and a new grocer, which could be a Walmart Neighborhood Market, a Kroger or one of several other grocery store chains, said Osborne, who also envisions the site to include abundant green space.
“We hope to have amenities that would be in context with a medical center that you would find at Duke University in Durham, N.C.,” Osborne said. “We want it to be a place for not just students but patients to come here and go to the hospital.”
This spring, the foundation purchased several parcels, including a Chinese restaurant, TitleMax and two apartment buildings, surrounding the city’s bus depot. Demolition of those structures is projected to start soon, Osborne said.
“We expect all of those buildings to be demolished by the end of the year,” he said.
If the foundation purchases the 3.5-acre depot parcel from the city as planned, Osborne said the organization will have spent about $2.5 million on the land acquisitions, which encompass a total of about 25 acres. The foundation already owns a shopping center adjacent to the “bus barn” that houses a Kroger grocer and other smaller stores.
City administrator Fred Russell did not immediately return phone messages.
In January 2012, the Augusta Commission decided in a closed session to sell the bus site for construction of a 40,000-square-foot Walmart supermarket concept store, known as the Walmart Neighborhood Market. The property was then turned over to the Augusta Land Bank Authority.
The foundation was upset over the acquisition after having previously made a $1 million offer in 2009 to buy the property for its redevelopment plans.
Osborne said the foundation is still negotiating with Walmart but have added other grocery chains to the list as well.
Walmart spokesperson Amanda Henneberg also confirmed Monday that the project is “still on track,” but she could not provide any further details.
Metro Augusta’s first 35,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market opened on Oct. 2 in the Village at Furys Ferry shopping center in Martinez.
While demolition of the older buildings now owned by the foundation will soon commence, Osborne said the Kroger shopping center will remain untouched at least “until we get our final plans developed for the gateway,” he said.
During the demolition phase, Osborne said he expects to finalize more facets of the project.