Medical College of Georgia Foundation waits for city to move buses from old depot

Once the city’s buses move out, progress can begin on redeveloping the Augusta bus depot into a grocery store, according to a Medical College of Georgia Foundation official.

The foundation negotiated a deal with the city in January 2013 to purchase the Augusta Public Transit depot off Walton Way and 15th Street, but the contract wasn’t secured until late last year, said foundation President and CEO James Osborne. He said he hopes to get the property by March.

The site was once primed for the development of a Walmart Neighborhood Market, but Osborne said the foundation is negotiating with others.

“We want to turn this property into a gateway, where there will be amenities that most medical centers have that we don’t have,” Osborne said. “Our goal is to have an upscale grocery store. We’re still open for competition. Kroger is interested. Walmart is interested. We’ve got two or three others, but we continue to have discussions with them.”

The foundation wants to redevelop 20 to 25 acres along the corridor to create a destination for patients and students at the Georgia Regents University Health Sciences campus. The organization already owns the Kroger shopping center next to John C. Calhoun Expressway as well as surrounding land.

The foundation plans to move ahead with demolition of old structures, including a Chinese restaurant, TitleMax and an apartment building, on several neighboring parcels it purchased last spring.

Osborne said he expects the property to be cleared within the next two to three weeks.

Plans call for a grocery store, restaurants, a hotel and other commercial projects.

The sale of the depot hinges on city buses moving to a Mike Padgett Highway facility. The contract grants the city time to acquire grants with the Federal Transportation Administration that would assist in the transition.

“We know those buses have to have a place to be parked. We just have to be patient until the city can get clearance to move the buses,” Osborne said.

Special city counsel Jim Plunkett said he is awaiting documents from the Richmond County Board of Education, which has a new bus maintenance facility on the site, to legally separate the two properties so the city can access the grants.

Once approved by education board members and members of the Augusta Commission, the Fenwick Street bus property will be sold to the foundation, he said.

“There’s a lot of moving parts that all have to line up at the right time,” Plunkett said.

Osborne said there is no deadline for the city.

The bus depot has been long pegged for commercial development. In 2012, the commission decided in closed session to sell the site for construction of a 40,000-square-foot Walmart market. The property was then turned over to the Augusta Land Bank Authority.

The foundation was upset at the deal, as it had previously made a $1 million offer in 2009 to buy the property for redevelopment.

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