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Walmart interested in property off 15th Street in Augusta's medical district

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 8:09 AM
Last updated Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 2:21 AM
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The city of Augusta has been in negotiations with a Walmart developer interested in the Augusta Public Transit facility at Fenwick and 15th streets for about a year, City Administrator Fred Russell confirmed Tuesday.

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Walmart is considering the downtown busbarn - The Augusta Public Transit - for a new store location in downtown Augusta.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Walmart is considering the downtown busbarn - The Augusta Public Transit - for a new store location in downtown Augusta.

The Walmart, a smaller, 40,000-square-foot “boutique” version with a focus on food and possibly pharmacy items, would ensure the neighborhood retains a grocery in the event the nearby Kroger closes, Russell said.

The Walmart developer who approached the city has begun obtaining adjoining parcels because the store would require more land than the city transit property, he said.

At the prospective site, located in the congested area at Fifteenth Street and Walton Way in the heart of the city’s medical district, Walmart’s concern has been “access to Walton Way,” Russell said.

The city bus barn — now the headquarters of Mobility Transit, the private firm that took over management of Augusta Public Transit last year — occupies approximately 3½ acres at 1535 Fenwick St. The tract is bounded by Fenwick Street, Wall Street and Chafee Avenue.

Immediately south and east of the tract are a Rite Aid, a Pizza Hut and a small motel.

The city has previously announced plans to move its buses in with Richmond County school buses at a new facility recently constructed in south Augusta.

The sale, based on the sites’ appraised value, won’t be enough to cover the year’s budget shortfall, Russell said.

According to property records, the largest city parcel in the tract was assessed at $972,682. About $866,177 of that is buildings that likely would be demolished, including a bus wash and transit office building constructed in 1994.

The site adjoins the 15th Street Kroger bequeathed to the Medical College of Georgia Foundation in 1997. Kroger is the only food store within walking distance for many impoverished and disabled Harrisburg and downtown residents, while Georgia Health Sciences University uses its parking lot for overflow parking.

According to previous Augusta Chronicle reports, Kroger leased the store from the foundation for 20 years around the time of the donation.

Russell said he knew of no timeline for the Walmart project.

Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, said Monday that he is not directly involved in discussions about the property, but said he had provided information about the area to Walmart, including the proximity of six hospitals and two major interchanges — John Calhoun Expressway and 15th Street, and Walton Way and 15th Street — as well as per-capita income and population counts.

Walmart’s Web site says the smaller stores “offer added convenience while holding the line on Walmart’s everyday low prices.”

Last month, Walmart said it was planning to build a 152,000-square-foot supercenter on Wrightsboro Road near North Leg early next year, according to company spokesman Glen Wilkins.

The store will be in the Forest Hills Shopping Center, near Baldinos. It will be smaller than most of the Walmart stores in the area and will not have an auto care center or a gas station.

Wilkins told The Chronicle the project would create up to 300 jobs, most of which would be full-time positions.

“We saw this as an area with dense population and an opportunity to better serve our customers,” he said.

Calls to Walmart regarding the downtown store have not been returned.

Comments (47) Add comment
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seenitB4
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seenitB4 02/21/12 - 08:26 am
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300 jobs is nothing to sneeze

300 jobs is nothing to sneeze at...so good luck downtown folks. :)

Fundamental_Arminian
1871
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Fundamental_Arminian 02/21/12 - 08:38 am
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Is the city planning to get

Is the city planning to get out of the bus business? The land and buildings up for sale are paid for and centrally located for storing, servicing, and dispatching the buses. From this location, buses don't have to drive far without collecting fares from passengers.

I hear the city is planning to share the Board of Education's facilities on Highway 56, which is on the edge of the bus route system. Besides costing rent, won't that location require buses to travel a lot more miles without generating revenues?

Why not continue to operate from the current location, which is already built and paid for?

Riverman1
93637
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Riverman1 02/21/12 - 08:48 am
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GHSU wants that land, too.

GHSU wants that land, too. The Kroger is already right there.

Little Lamb
49030
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Little Lamb 02/21/12 - 08:49 am
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Your comment about the

Your comment about the current facility's being bought and paid for is a good one, FA. But your comment about the current facility's being centrally located is a bit off base. Looking at a map, the current location for the depot (15th St. @ Broad St.) is not centrally located. It actually is near the edge of the county (Savannah River).

Your questions are good and need to be discussed. Our city government does not have a good track record in property management.

Riverman1
93637
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Riverman1 02/21/12 - 08:57 am
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I'm not quite sure where and

I'm not quite sure where and how, but GHSU has claim to lots of the land around there. The land the Kroger sits on is leased from them, also. If they really need it to expand, I'd go with them.

Little Lamb
49030
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Little Lamb 02/21/12 - 09:01 am
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Yeah, RM, the television news

Yeah, RM, the television news story last night had more information than this newspaper article. It said that Gazoo owns the shopping center that leases the building to Kroger and that they enjoy their relationship with Kroger. Fred (worrying for the first time) Russell says he is concerned that Gazoo might not renew the lease with Kroger some day in the future, so he is gleeful that Wal-Mart might actually buy property and put up a store that includes a Wal-Mart grocery (and it's closer to Fred's riverfront property than Kroger is).

The Gazoo spokesman did express the opinion that Gazoo might also be interested in the bus depot property.

Another tidbit that the TV news story said is that the real estate where the bus depot lies belongs to the city government. But the actual depot building was built with federal DOT money and it came with strings. If the city sells the depot property to a private entity, they have to return the money to the federal DOT.

If I got my facts wrong, please forgive me. It was a quickie TV story on the news. I can't remember whether I was watching channel 6 or channel 12.

Riverman1
93637
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Riverman1 02/21/12 - 09:05 am
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LL, spot on. TV is where I

LL, spot on. TV is where I got my info, too. Yep, about the money owed to the feds for the depot.

But why not give it to GHSU. If a small Walmart goes in I wonder if the Kroger can survive? GHSU creates better jobs, etc.

Fundamental_Arminian
1871
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Fundamental_Arminian 02/21/12 - 09:15 am
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LL, thanks for your input.

LL, thanks for your input. I've long appreciated your watchful eye and your way of expressing things.

The bus facility I mentioned is not the terminal at Broad and 15th streets, but the administration and maintenance building on Fenwick Street near 15th Street and Walton Way.

I shouldn't have described it as centrally located, but it is well-positioned to send buses to the terminal and to the various routes. Some buses start at the downtown terminal, but others begin their routes at K-mart on the Gordon Highway or even at the ends of routes in East Augusta and South Augusta. (Imagine the wasted mileage from having to dispatch buses from Highway 56 to the main terminal.)

You're right about the federal money. I've heard that 80% of the funding comes from the federal government, 10% from the state, and 10% from the local government. Having to repay the feds and the state would greatly cut into proceeds from the sale of the facilities.

Thethirdjq
214
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Thethirdjq 02/21/12 - 09:11 am
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Say goodbye to small

Say goodbye to small business, mom and pop shops, and small pharmacies in the downtown area. As in other towns, when Wal-Mart comes in, local business suffers.

allhans
24885
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allhans 02/21/12 - 09:23 am
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The downtown residents,

The downtown residents, including the senior citizens living in the area, are in need of a place to shop. A Walmart would help tremendously.

paperhearts
99
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paperhearts 02/21/12 - 09:42 am
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GHSU already owns the Kroger

GHSU already owns the Kroger property, the purchased and is leasing it to them. The lease will be ending shortly and it is up to GHSU to renew it or not. I live downtown and even though I don't mind shopping at the Kroger there, they don't call it Murder Kroger without reason. They need to fix it up and hire an on duty guard. Downtowners go over the river to go grocery shopping bc of how unsafe it is especially after nightfall. That is revenue not spent in GA.

AjavaCafe
37
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AjavaCafe 02/21/12 - 09:48 am
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Wal Mart, Rite Aid, CVS and

Wal Mart, Rite Aid, CVS and Kroger??? I personally don't see them all surviving that close together. Then lets talk about the traffic trying to get out of a Wal Mart parking lot onto 15th street.

wondersnevercease
9218
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wondersnevercease 02/21/12 - 09:48 am
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YES!!!....now all the
Unpublished

YES!!!....now all the Richmond county cars in North Augusta will go "poof"..........

GuesS_wHU
3
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GuesS_wHU 02/21/12 - 09:54 am
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Why would a Wal-mart,

Why would a Wal-mart, basically located in the same place as Kroger, be any better then Kroger? That Kroger is not kept up nor renovated like almost every other Kroger in the area. It will be known as the 'Combat Walmart' within weeks of opening. Either they up the ante and staff decent security or it will be the same experience.

As far as the bus depot goes, wouldn't it be better off located on Broad St in the cities maintenance department? Across from the U-haul? Closer to the bus terminal. . .

allhans
24885
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allhans 02/21/12 - 10:16 am
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paperhearts is right.

paperhearts is right. Downtown shoppers now go to North Augusta to Walmart and also the Publix for groceries.
The area around the 15th St Kroger has not been a preferred location.

zsaxt642
14
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zsaxt642 02/21/12 - 11:09 am
1
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Good idea for city to welcome

Good idea for city to welcome Walmart to build on 15th street vicinity a Neighborhood Market. Dallas has seen this as very successful in these type areas of bringing the city back where land could go vacant and be unproductive.

zsaxt642
14
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zsaxt642 02/21/12 - 11:15 am
1
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they can all survive

they can all survive nicely.http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FNP/is_11_39/ai_64694072/
http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2012/01/04/walmart-to-open-t...
Bus terminal? the property has no value as bus terminal or anything city related. Clue: Buses pay no taxes, they eat taxes. Get out of the stone Age and start utilizing the property Augusta has, as hundreds of other cities have done to date. Most have left Augusta behind downtown because of backwards thinking idealogy.

Little Lamb
49030
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Little Lamb 02/21/12 - 11:44 am
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Thanks, FA, for your 9:15

Thanks, FA, for your 9:15 post. I did not know about a city bus maintenance facility on Fenwick St. near 15th. Perhaps the reason the city is vacating that facility is because the school board set up that big maintenance facility on Hwy. 56 and maybe the school board and the city transit gurus set up a deal to use the common facility. Certainly neither this article nor the TV story made any of that clear.

One thing to think about from the article above: The proposed Wal-Mart in the Forest Hills shopping center on Wrightsboro is scheduled to break ground in "early 2013." One would surmise that if Wal-Mart and the city ever come to an agreement to sell the land, any new Wal-Mart at the Fenwick St. facility will be way down the line after that date.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 02/21/12 - 11:53 am
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Mixed feelings on this. My

Mixed feelings on this. My hope and expectation is that Augusta will benefit from positive progress and in the end, small business and Walmart will live harmoniously. It's a good use of the land compared to Kroger shopping center and the state it's in now.

allhans
24885
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allhans 02/21/12 - 12:24 pm
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I am for small business.

I am for small business. I place Kroger and Walmart in the same category, that being chain stores.
I haven't been inside a Walmart store in months.
I use Hill Drugs or Surrey Center Pharmacy for drugs rather than use a big chain. If a local merchant can give me comparable goods at comparable prices, then he has my business.

Riverman1
93637
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Riverman1 02/21/12 - 12:26 pm
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I bet Dr. Azziz is going to

I bet Dr. Azziz is going to make a pitch that GHSU get the land tonight at the Commission meeting.

Riverman1
93637
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Riverman1 02/21/12 - 12:31 pm
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There's another side to this.

There's another side to this. The MCG foundation which owns the land Kroger is on has bought land in that area so MCG can expand. They have said this parcel is needed and if they get it, the Kroger will stay. Now what happens if they don't get this parcel? Do they tell Kroger to leave? It's hard to believe Walmart and Kroger will be there next to each other.

pointstoponder
608
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pointstoponder 02/21/12 - 12:51 pm
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The city and the school board

The city and the school board have been planning to share the property on 56 for several years.

mikeelliott
85
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mikeelliott 02/21/12 - 12:54 pm
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We can make this story even

We can make this story even more interesting if we can find out if Augusta/Richmond County owns the airspace above the property...

Little Lamb
49030
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Little Lamb 02/21/12 - 01:10 pm
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I just went to the city's

I just went to the city's property information page on the web and looked at these parcels on Fenwick St. where the bus maintenance shed used to be. It looks like the city owns four contiguous parcels there. Even taken all together, it is a small patch of land, not nearly enough for even a small Wal-Mart. For Wal-Mart to develop there they will want to take at least the whole city block in order to have frontage on 15th street. It looks like a red-roofed fried chicken restaurant is on 15th. Of course, Wal-Mart could buy that up in a New York minute.

Little Lamb
49030
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Little Lamb 02/21/12 - 01:12 pm
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Whoa! I made that last post

Whoa! I made that last post before realizing that the article has been totally re-written to give a much clearer picture of the concept. Thanks, Susan! I didn't realize that the total amount of land the city could bring to the table was over three acres.

Sweet son
11632
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Sweet son 02/21/12 - 01:31 pm
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@paperhearts, thanks for the

@paperhearts, thanks for the update. George Weiss the owner of the property gave it to the Medical College of Georgia upon his death. He also donated his body to the Anatomical Path Department there. And if you young folks don't know, as do us older folks, he was the owner of Savannah Valley Broadcasting which was the parent company of WBBQ. He also was the voice and force behind "WBBQ Mobile One" when BBQ was involved in on the scene news reports. And if my memory serves me correctly there was a drive-in on the Kroger property so maybe the radio call sign WBBQ came from the drive-in which sold BBQ. Anyone can correct me if I am wrong. George Weiss was a true Southern Gentleman!

marie21
5
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marie21 02/21/12 - 01:56 pm
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Sweet son, I remember George

Sweet son, I remember George Weiss well. I was a young child and would go with my parents to the local Railroad Historical club that would meet at the Washington Road fire station. He was always nice to me. I remember his nick name was "Fat Cat". Nice man.

countyman
21630
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countyman 02/21/12 - 02:09 pm
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Finally we have our first

Finally we have our first neighborhood market.. Please bring one to the CBD next, but let's attract Target this time..

The people living/working in the CBD, Waters Edge, Harrisburg, Summerville, Medical District, Olde Town, etc will use the new Walmart... The Kroger shopping center will more than likely be renovated, or GHSU will build something because of the new investment...

Little Lamb
49030
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Little Lamb 02/21/12 - 02:13 pm
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What do you mean, "first

What do you mean, "first neighborhood market," Countyman?

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