A project to build a new civic center at the vacant Regency Mall site now faces a Nov. 30 deadline set by the Augusta Commission.
Commissioner Sammie Sias, who called for the deadline, said he and many other south Augusta residents thought Mayor Hardie Davis’ proposal to build at Regency was “very exciting” but that it was time for decisions to be made.
The plan has come under fire from business leaders who cite downtown Augusta’s burgeoning growth as reason to build there. A site selection study and committee recommended building at the current James Brown Arena site, but the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted 4-2 based on Davis’ proposal to build at Regency.
Since the vote, Coliseum Authority attorney Ed Enoch and the attorney for mall owner Alan Cardinale have exchanged correspondence about what Cardinale wants to allow the authority to build at the site.
The last available information about Cardinale’s offer included the city granting long-term tax abatements on the mall land, low-interest financing for Cardinale to redevelop it and extensive parking lot renovations and upkeep. Cardinale would donate a portion of the property on which the authority would build a yet-unfunded $110 million-plus arena.
“I’ve been patiently waiting on information,” Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said. “It’s no different from what the general public has.”
Guilfoyle said he’d added up the total expense of a triple-net lease, asphalt and landscaping work, the tax abatements and other expenses the deal would cost Augusta. According to the calculations, the latest version of the deal will cost Augusta almost $75 million over the length of a 50-year lease, including $16 million in school taxes lost during a 25-year abatement.
The calculations assumed Augusta would finance for Cardinale some $150 million in development around the mall and incur $10.5 million in debt doing so.
Guilfoyle joined commissioners Grady Smith, Ben Hasan, Dennis Williams, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis, Sean Frantom and Sias in support of the Nov. 30 deadline .
Commissioner Andrew Jefferson, who represents the mall area, said the deal needed more time and moved to set a Jan. 30 deadline instead.
“There are some people that will put this thing to rest because they are anti-Regency Mall-site, because this is a way to put that site off the table,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson’s substitute motion had support only from commissioners Marion Williams, Fennoy and himself.
“To move forward and to grow our city we can’t do everything downtown,” Williams said. “We’re always looking at what can’t be (at Regency). There’s a hidden agenda to focus off that area. I love the location. I think it could really be great.”
Despite the deadline, the authority has a monthly meeting Nov. 28 and member Darren Smith, who supported the Regency site, said Monday it was sufficient time for the authority to make a decision.
“I believe we’ve got information that we can move forward,” Smith said. “I certainly believe it’s addressed some of the concerns that we’ve heard in the community.”
Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.