TaxSlayer buys Family Y building in downtown Augusta

JOE HOTCHKISS/STAFF Danny McConnell, president and CEO of The Family Y of Greater Augusta, holds a framed vintage postcard showing the Downtown Y location shortly after it was built in 1923. The Family Y sold the building to tax-preparation software company TaxSlayer on Thursday.

The Family Y of Greater Augusta sold its downtown location Thursday to tax-preparation software company TaxSlayer.

 

President and CEO Danny McConnell said the Y could announce within 30 days where the nonprofit organization will relocate downtown. Financial terms of the sale were not immediately disclosed. But Richmond County has placed an assessed value on the property at $1,901,951.

McConnell said the deal to buy the building at 945 Broad St. had been in the works for about three months.

The 94-year-old building never was placed officially on the market, he said. When word spread that the Downtown Y was considering moving out, at least three prospective buyers approached the Family Y unsolicited. TaxSlayer was one of those three buyers, McConnell said.

“Strategically our organization is at a crossroads,” he said. “Our Downtown Y needed a facelift and deserved a facelift. This building deserves to be maintained at a high level, and it was time to spend some money on it.”

The Family Y calculated that the cost to maintain the current downtown facility approached $3 million. If features were added that are available at newer Y branches, the cost rose to more than $5 million.

Another factor in selling the building was the lack of parking. The Downtown Y had never owned any parking spaces, and McConnell said within “the next couple of years,” motorists will be required to pay to park downtown, through metered spaces and paid parking decks.

“For a membership organization like us, the future of where this was heading was problematic,” McConnell said. “Even if we raised the funds and renovated the facility, at some point in time when the parking went to a paid-use situation, our business model doesn’t work anymore.”

The Downtown Y has about 1,100 members.

The branch’s administrative offices will vacate within 60 days, but member services will remain open until year’s end, McConnell said. Some amenities have been shut down. The branch’s swimming pool, where generations of children had learned to swim, closed Wednesday night.

But McConnell said the move would be good for all parties involved. The Y and its downtown members will move into a new facility, and the original building will get a tenant committed to the building’s upkeep.

With a new occupant, the building also will re-enter the property tax rolls, McConnell said. As a nonprofit, the Y paid no taxes on that property.

A Family Y committee has been working to find a new home for the downtown branch to lease, and is next scheduled to meet Friday. The Y initially looked at 11 properties, and as of Thursday had narrowed its choices down to four.

McConnell didn’t disclose the locations of the properties, but said “you could hit ‘em with a rock from where we are right now.”

The properties being looked at vary in size from 6,500 to 20,000 square feet – all with parking, and some properties have a potential to be expanded. The current Downtown Y building is about 40,000 square feet, and half of that is taken up by office space.

Also, none of the spaces being looked at have either a pool or a “basketball gym,” McConnell said. But he said its planned wellness area, locker rooms and group exercise spaces will be better than those now at the Downtown Y.

Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co. represented TaxSlayer in the building’s sale.

“This is a big deal for downtown Augusta,” said Blanchard and Calhoun Vice President Davis Beman. He said the sale signals that Augusta “is ready for businesses to come downtown.”

Jordan Trotter Commercial Real Estate represented the Family Y in the sale. Partner Dennis Trotter said it was “great to see private investment flow into downtown in the past few years,” particularly in the past two years.

The Downtown Y building, erected in 1923, was the first long-term home of Augusta’s Young Men’s Christian Association. Upper levels of the building housed YMCA tenants until the building closed in May 1982.

In 1997 the Downtown YMCA Limited Partnership donated the Y building to the Health Central Wellness and Fitness Facility, which began in 1978 as an affiliate of University Hospital. Health Central had been leasing the basement, gym and lobby of the building as a fitness center since 1983.

At the time of the 1997 donation, the Y building was valued at $3.9 million. The Family Y of Greater Augusta re-acquired the building in 2010 and renamed the facility The Family Y of Downtown Augusta as of Jan. 1, 2011.

The Family Y took full ownership of the building after paying it off in January.

Calls to TaxSlayer were not immediately returned Thursday.

TaxSlayer was founded in Augusta in 1965 as the tax preparation business Rhodes-Murphy & Co. It ventured into software development in 1989 to enable the company to complete tax returns by computer. It later marketed its software first to tax professionals, then to the public nationwide.

TaxSlayer completed its Evans headquarters in 2012. The five-story building can accommodate about 500 employees. The company had 134 full-time employees as of December 2016.

Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543

or joe.hotchkiss@augustachronicle.com.

 

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