Rob Lacher and Jerry Reynolds find that breathing new life into the Hill area is done one house at a time.
At the corner of Heath Street and Wrightsboro Road, the pair have turned a blighted property once inhabited by a partially burned-down drug house into three Charleston-style homes, complete with a white picket fence. Each home was finished by the end of 2013 and showcases historic touches, whether it be old bricks or antique beams, of the house that stood before it. All three homes have since sold to young couples and professionals.
“A lot of these young professionals really do want to live in Richmond County, but they just want something that’s affordable and nice,” Lacher said. “It’s just kind of hard to find.”
Mike and Corrie Ingham moved in October from a downtown loft to their new Heath Street home, which boasts 1,700 square feet, three bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms and an open floor plan. The couple, who wanted to remain in Richmond County, listed convenience to shopping destinations and walkability as reasons they found the area attractive.
“We love it and want to see how we can make it better,” Mike Ingham said of the city and his surrounding neighborhood.
Most projects spurred by Lacher and Reynolds are within five miles of the Ingham home.
Just around the corner, at Baker Avenue and McDowell Street, the duo is adding another single-family home and awaiting zoning approval for two more lots next door, where a converted triplex building sits vacant. Reynolds said they’ll have to tear down the home and a cottage in the backyard to make room for two more homes that will resemble the ones on Heath Street.
Other developments, including the three homes at Walton Way and Heard Avenue or the six townhome units in the works at Craig Street and Wrightsboro Road, are designated for student rentals.
For the Walton Way project to come about, Reynolds said he had to remove a dilapidated structure occupied by vagabonds.
“It has a huge impact on that area,” Reynolds said. “It’s exciting. It’s fun. We’re changing the face of Augusta-Richmond County by doing all these gateway area projects. It also makes people feel better about investing in their homes.”
Lacher, a CPA, and Reynolds, a veteran homebuilder, joined forces in late 2012 and started KMI/LRP Construction. The two knew each other as alumni of Georgia Southern University, and Reynolds was a client at Lacher’s old accounting company. The business partners also share ownership of an accounting firm, Lacher and Associates.
In 2013, the men completed eight projects and expect to finish an additional 20 properties this year that will include a “Hammond’s Ferry”-type development in front of Neptune Dive and Ski. Construction on the six-home neighborhood will start this month, featuring porches facing Lake Olmstead and requiring removal of a billboard at the end of John C. Calhoun Expressway.
Lacher said they’ve invested about $3.1 million in recent and current projects in Richmond County, mainly around Georgia Regents University’s Summerville campus. The homes sell for $170,000 to $380,000.
While Lacher and Reynolds have completed two or three projects within the Summerville area, many of their developments fall on the outer fringes of the historic district, which requires developers to follow a historic preservation ordinance and get Augusta-Richmond County Historic Preservation Commission approval before any demolition or renovations can commence.
Historic Augusta Executive Director Erick Montgomery said in some instances, new construction can create inconsistent architecture styles among homes on the same street.
“The character of the neighborhood is important to maintain,” he said.
Lacher said about 75 percent of the homes he and Reynolds find need demolition. Whenever possible, Lacher said they try to use recycled materials from homes they’ve torn down and retain pieces of historical integrity, like they did with the Inghams’ home.
“It really comes down to we love seeing neighborhoods get revitalized,” he said. “We’ve had countless neighbors come up to us on this street and say, ‘thank you.’ By building these homes, you change this entire area.”