MCG Foundation negotiates deal to buy city bus depot

Medical College of Georgia Foundation Inc. has negotiated a deal to buy the bus depot the city voted nearly one year ago to sell to a company developing a Walmart.

Foundation president and CEO James Osborne said six months of discussions with the city and the developer, Blanchard and Calhoun, resulted in a revised plan that allows the foundation to buy the bus depot. Osborne said the purchase could be complete in mid-January, but he would not disclose the price.

Last January, the Augusta Commission voted behind closed doors to sell the bus depot after a proposal by Blanchard and Calhoun. It was later transferred to the Augusta Land Bank Authority. The foundation, which had a longtime interest in buying the property and at one time offered $1 million, was upset at the deal.

Tommy Saul, the vice president of Blanchard and Calhoun, said the project will move along more quickly with the foundation involved because it owns an adjacent shopping center on 15th Street with a Kroger grocery store.

Osborne said no development plans have been finalized. Discussions continue with Walmart to build a 40,000-square-foot store, but the foundation and developer Jim Hull are also talking to Kroger and at least two other grocery stores, which Osborne would not name.

“We expect we’re going to get one of those to sign on the dotted line in the next six months,” he said.

The foundation also recently purchased parcels at Walton Way and Chafee Street – where a Chinese restaurant and TitleMax are located – and two apartment buildings between the bus depot and Walton Way, Osborne said. Although several layouts are being considered, the buildings will likely be demolished to create a gateway to the medical campus.

A grocery store – either a Walmart Neighborhood Market or another brand – will be the centerpiece of the 25-acre development, with additional retail, restaurants and other amenities, Osborne said.

Russell said he was not ready to discuss details of the sale or development. Moving the bus depot and securing a grocery store in the area is still a major goal, he said.

Development of the property has not moved as quickly as Russell wanted, but he’s hopeful a solution is near. Negotiations continue over the price for a new bus depot off Mike Padgett Highway, he said.

Plans for another Walmart on Wrightsboro Road are closer to fruition. A site and engineering plan for a 152,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter are being reviewed, said George Patty, Augusta’s director of Planning and Development.

Walmart Stores East Business Unit spokesman Bill Wertz said the corporation is not ready to send the Wrightsboro Road project out for construction bids but it anticipates an early 2014 completion date.

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