Regency Mall owner Alan A. Cardinale issued a statement and his son-in-law James McKinnon spoke publicly for a first time Thursday on Cardinal Management’s proposal to relocate James Brown Arena at the dilapidated south Augusta site.
The comments backed Mayor Hardie Davis’ recent endorsement of the loosely-defined plan, which has support from many in south Augusta but sparked a vigorous public campaign by others to keep the arena in downtown Augusta.
“I feel at this time it is appropriate for me as the owner of Regency Mall to release a statement acknowledging and lending my support to the possible relocation of the James Brown Arena to the Regency Mall property,” said the statement, which is dated Tuesday and signed by Cardinale.
“We have worked closely and cooperatively with Mayor Davis and the city of Augusta toward the common beneficial goal of relocation. Our interest is to support and encourage this very viable and exciting approach to the revitalization, growth and prosperity not only of the Gordon Highway corridor but all of Augusta,” it said.
Reached by telephone Thursday, McKinnon said he’d met Davis twice, and had “conversations with other people in the city and the commission” about a proposal to redevelop the mall property. He and Cardinale will return to Augusta “in the next couple of weeks” with a goal of “trying to figure out if this is something we could make work,” while it is now in the attorneys’ hands, McKinnon said.
Little is known about the firm’s intentions beyond an Aug. 21 letter proposing to lease 39 acres of mall property at $1 a year for 35 years “for the development of a new sports arena” in return for Cardinal not having to pay taxes for 10 years and the city resurfacing and maintaining the mall parking lot.
The letter caught Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson by complete surprise, Johnson has said, when authority member Darren Smith pulled it out as he motioned to build a proposed new arena at Regency rather than move forward with developing a plan to build on a selection committee’s intended downtown site. Smith had support from three other authority members and the motion passed 4-2.
Davis offered no additional detail about the proposal but called the authority vote “visionary” at a news conference last week. He asked to see a copy of the letter Thursday before responding to a request for comment.
McKinnon said the proposal is “vague right now” and that the firm is open to other development plans at the site.
“We would never say ‘no’ to anything without knowing what it is,” he said. “Right now we think the arena is the best viable option and we are excited by the thought of building the arena there. It would justify us making substantial investment in the area.”