Regency owner suggests gifting part of mall site for arena

A property sale, a longer lease and even a gift are among the nuggets of information in correspondence from Regency Mall’s owner as Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority attempts to negotiate a deal to build an arena there.

 

The public was kept out of a Tuesday authority meeting where the possible deals were presented. The presentation followed the group’s 4-2 vote in August to build an arena at the blighted former mall, taking an abrupt turn from a consultant’s pick of a downtown site in a move coordinated by Mayor Hardie Davis, who called the choice “visionary.”

Correspondence from Phil Cardinale, attorney for New York-based owner Alan Cardinale, with authority attorney Ed Enoch mentions possibly extending the authority’s proposed lease of part of the mall property from 35 years up to 50 , in return for extending a tax abatement on the property one year for each additional lease year.

A second offer in the email, obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, is for Cardinale to sell the former Montgomery Ward portion of the mall and a surrounding 39-acre tract for $10 million.

A third offer, sent hours before Tuesday’s meeting, says Cardinale will give the Montgomery Ward building “and parcel” to the authority outright, if Cardinale is allowed to pay no property taxes on the surrounding property for 25 years, and receives low-interest financing from the authority to redevelop the surrounding property.

The three possible offers remain subject to Cardinale’s original terms, which he sent Davis prior to the authority’s August vote. The requirements are that the authority build a 12,000- to 15,000-seat sports arena at the Montgomery Ward site, lease the property for 35 years, pay all expenses, improve and maintain parking and waive Cardinale’s property tax bill for 10 years.

Three Cardinale-owned entities own a total of almost 72 acres that includes the former mall and surrounding parking lot.

Authority Vice Chairman Brad Usry as well as Chairman Cedric Johnson have maintained their opposition to the site since the vote. Usry questioned who was negotiating on the authority’s behalf.

“I am not sure who is negotiating this deal,” he said. “This is a bad deal for the taxpayers of Augusta and according to experts and research, this location is not the best site. I don’t understand the rationale or motivation to continue this negotiation.

“There is a better use for Regency Mall that will facilitate economic development, and this is not it,” Usry said.

Authority member Darren Smith, who led the group’s decision to favor the Regency site, said the possibility of a longer lease and gift of property from Cardinale indicated the parties may be moving closer to a deal at a site he says is favorable due to nearby multi-lane highway access.

“What piqued the interest of myself is the gifting part of the property and the possibility of long-term leasing the rest of it,” Smith said. “It’s a better deal than what we started off with.”

One member of the Augusta Commission – whose approval will be needed for the project to be funded and move forward – questioned Cardinale’s latest offers, though he said he was not familiar with the details.

“As long as he keeps the hot air blowing, it keeps things going,” Commissioner Grady Smith said. “Talk is cheap as long as it’s not written on a legal document. He could be working a deal somewhere else and see what pops up first.”

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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