Search for Port Royal tenant begins anew

When Medac Inc. struck a deal with North Augusta officials last month to relocate its headquarters across the river, Dennis Trotter was sent back to the drawing board.

Trotter, an Augusta broker, spent about a year wooing the medical billing company based in west Augusta to the downtown Augusta riverfront property that once housed retail shops and later the Fort Discovery science museum. The 120,000-square-foot property has sat vacant since Fort Discovery closed in 2010, and Medac looked like a promising fit.

In April, Medac announced that it would build its own office, spending $12 million for a two-story structure near the city’s municipal building.

In the process of courting Medac to the Port Royal building, Trotter turned away two “large employers” that were interested in the property. And now he’s trying to get them back.

“We’d been focused so hard on getting Medac to work, and unfortunately it didn’t,” said Trotter, a partner in the Jordan Trotter commercial development firm. “They’re a great company and I wish them all the success in the world in their North Augusta project, but we will get somebody down there that’s going to put a lot of people in downtown, and we’re still excited about it.”

Trotter said he’s currently talking with one of the previous companies, which isn’t local, that showed initial interest in the building.

Trotter, who represents the property’s California-based owner, said they’re open to leasing the space out to two or three large tenants. The building was purchased in 2012 by developer Moshe Silagi and has been stripped to bare concrete floors and columns to be retrofitted for new tenants.

Trotter said he’d like to see a 250-seat theater on the second floor of the space remain intact and turned into a selling point.

“We’ve still got a great opportunity for another major employer to come downtown,” he said. “We’ve got kind of the blueprints on how to make the transaction work from a parking standpoint and a logistic standpoint.”

The city’s downtown development authority also is marketing the property through its retail consultant, its executive director said. Retail Strategies LLC, the Alabama-based retail consultant contracted by the DDA to bring retail downtown, planned to market the property this week at the International Council of Shopping Centers show in Las Vegas, Margaret Woodard said.

“It’s a great location,” she said. “It’s on our beautiful Riverwalk. It’s a great structure. It’s wide open. It’s got great bones. It’s in great shape.”

But a potential parking lot on vacant city-owned land just two blocks down the street, however, is no longer on the table. Voters shot down on Tuesday a $194.3 million sales tax package, known as SPLOST 7, which included a $1.5 million allocation to the DDA for a “surface parking lot” at 511 Reynolds St. The lot was initially proposed as an incentive for Medac.

Trotter didn’t disclose full details of the proposal but said a separate parking agreement had been worked out in the Medac deal.

He pointed out that even once a potential tenant shows interest, it takes months of discussion to make a project feasible.

“It’s a long process to make a transaction like that work,” Trotter said. “It’s such a huge deal for the property owner and the tenant and the city.”

Augusta medical billing company moving to North Augusta
"Significant interest" seen in old Fort Discovery space
Owner of former Fort Discovery site has space to fill
Last Fort Discovery exhibit torn down for scrap metal
Vacant Fort Discovery site sold to California investor

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