Augusta seeks developers for Laney-Walker neighborhood projects

Redevelopment plans in the Laney-Walker neighborhood are moving forward as the city looks for developers for projects at three sites.

 

The Housing and Community Develop­ment Department recently requested proposals from prequalified developers, Director Chester Wheeler said. Those developers were identified about two years ago after interviews and evaluations.

The document requesting proposals from developers was obtained by The Au­gusta Chronicle. The request was sent March 1 to nine developers from Augusta; the Atlanta area; Savannah, Ga.; and other locations.

In 2008, the city began a massive revitalization initiative in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods to replace blight with planned development. Private investment is sought to help leverage a $38.5 million public investment from a special 50-year hotel/motel tax that generates $750,000 a year for the project.

“Both the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods could be attractive alternatives to suburban living if the proper mix of housing and neighborhood retail de­velopment could be achieved through innovative revitalization strategies,” the document states.

The neighborhoods cover about 1,020 acres and contain more than 3,500 parcels.

One of the projects lies within a special zoning area that went into effect in mid-January after months of controversy. The overlay zoning district restricts the type of businesses that can occupy a development area known as Foundry Place.

The request seeks a developer for the old Augusta Foundry site near the intersection of R.A. Dent Boulevard and Wrightsboro Road. Currently, four old warehouses sit on the 3.5-acre property where the city would like to build retail stores and office space near multifamily, single-family and townhouse units.

City leaders have touted the project as a potential catalyst for growth near the Georgia Health Sciences University campus. New housing could attract students, and a market analysis identified Wrightsboro Road as a prime area for commercial growth, the document states.

Two other projects need developers for historic renovations of properties dating to the early 20th century that were prominent sites in the black community.

The city wants to refurbish the Penny Savings Bank Building on the corner of Laney-Walker and James Brown boulevards for commercial or office space or a mixed-use development with apartments. The Penny Savings Bank was built in 1922 and housed the first black financial institution in Augusta. It was repurposed in 1990 by the Laney-Walker Development Corp. In 1992, the adjacent Armstrong Galleria commercial plaza was built.

The third project is a renovation of the former St. Benedict Orphanage and Boarding School built in 1901. According to the request-for-proposals document, a private owner would like to redevelop the property into senior or student housing.

Located at 1220 12th St., the property is next to the Heritage Pine development corridor, a key growth area where at least 18 homes have been built recently.

According to Wheeler, the prequalified developers were given 30 days to submit proposals. The request will be opened to the public April 2 if no developer is selected.

 

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