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Augusta outlet mall plans canceled

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A fashion outlet mall that had been expected to break ground in December will no longer be part of the Village at Riverwatch development in Augusta.

“Ben Carter is no longer pursuing it,” said Tony Wilbert, president of The Wilbert Group, which handles public relations for Atlanta-based developer Ben Carter Enterprises. “He had several retailers interested, but to make it a fashion outlet mall, you need some key ones, like Polo.

“Ben was negotiating with them ... We can’t talk for Polo, but some of the key ones decided it wasn’t the right time to be opening at that site.”

In February, Carter and city leaders held a press conference at the development off Riverwatch Parkway and announced the 400,000-square-fashion mall, which they said would bring top-tier fashion retailers, 1,500 jobs and a $150 million investment to the area. In addition to building the “Outlet Mall of Georgia at Augusta,” Carter also planned to develop an additional 400,000 square feet in restaurants, hotels and other retail use on 25 acres of the site near Costco and Cabela’s.

Carter was under contract this summer to purchase 70 acres of the development near Interstate 20 from Dallas-based MG Herring Group, which did not immediately return phone calls Friday.

Part of the purchase agreement hinged on moving a proposed 14-screen movie theater to another spot on the site. In July, executives with Ben Carter Enterprises announced that Georgia Theatre Co. had agreed to reposition Riverwatch 14 Cinemas.

The canceled project hasn’t changed plans for Riverwatch 14 Cinemas, said Bo Chambliss, president of Georgia Theatre Co.

“We’re almost finished with the plans now and we hope to start construction in the next couple of months, hopefully well before the end of the year," he said.

The theater will include a full-service restaurant and a large-format presentation auditorium, with an 80-foot-wide, four-story screen. Chambliss said the theater will employ about 50 people and should open by next July.

Carter, who was traveling Friday and couldn’t be reached, has said that Augusta’s demographics and 50-mile regional trade radius made the fashion outlet project attractive.

“He obviously sees the market as a good spot for a fashion outlet mall,” Wilbert said. “He said some of the retailers just weren’t there yet.”

The development group planned to have 60 percent of space in the outlet mall leased before breaking ground in December. By early July, developers were working to convert letters of intent for 25 percent of the retail space into leases.

The commercial real estate firm wanted to open the mall in time for the 2016 Masters Tournament.

Ben Carter Enterprises is developing an outlet mall near Savannah, Ga., which is set to open in the spring of 2015. The Augusta project was supposed to attract the same type of retailers that have committed to the Savannah mall.

This is the second outlet mall that’s been discussed for the area.

In 2011, Augusta real estate firm Blanchard and Calhoun tested the waters for an outlet mall near the Gateway shopping center, off the Grovetown exit of Interstate 20, but solid plans never materialized. The company’s senior vice president, Matt Mills, said last year that outlet retailers were reluctant to locate in metro Augusta because of the city’s small market size, and they didn’t want to compete with their primary retail stores already established.

Andy Wilke, general manager of the Augusta Mall, agreed that market size and competing stores can deter outlet retailers from choosing a particular site.

“It all comes down to tenants,” he said. “They could want to build a skyscraper in the city, but if no one wants to be in the skyscraper then they’re not going to build it. There is quite a bit of vacant retail space in the market already, so adding another 400,000-square-feet I think would have been a particular challenge.”

The mall on Wrightsboro Road, which just opened a 23,000-square-foot, two-story H&M store Aug. 14, is now 99 percent leased, Wilke said.

“We have tenants that want to be in the mall, and we’re trying to find space for them,” he said. “But, we have a good problem in that we don’t have space for them.”

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Marinerman1
5093
Points
Marinerman1 08/22/14 - 12:28 pm
7
0
DANG !!

DANG !! The Outlet Mall concept that was floated to Columbia County, so we all had high hopes for this one. Will anyone ever provide the REASON the developers were unable to get enough buy-in ??

dichotomy
34499
Points
dichotomy 08/22/14 - 12:46 pm
13
0
"unable to find enough “key”

"unable to find enough “key” fashion outlet retailers to sign on board"

Oh....is that how it works. I guess Five Guys couldn't find enough hamburger eaters in South Augusta either.

I guess countyman will have to scratch the outlet mall of his bragging list.

TrulyWorried
15402
Points
TrulyWorried 08/22/14 - 12:53 pm
8
0
Port Royal

comes to my mind -

Mr. Thackeray
953
Points
Mr. Thackeray 08/22/14 - 01:17 pm
8
0
It's a bad location, if you

It's a bad location, if you ask me. I don't blame them. I hear Cabelas is well below projected sales as well.

Dixieman
15999
Points
Dixieman 08/22/14 - 09:54 pm
10
3
Maybe...

...we don't dress fashionably enough here in the CSRA to attract this kind of store?
Lotsa ladies out there who obviously save up to go to Wal-Mart for their clothes.
Lotsa guys out there who also shop at Wally World but then don't even wash their clothes for a couple of months.
Not to mention: Wearing a baseball cap backward is not a fashion statement.

GeorgiaCarolina
230
Points
GeorgiaCarolina 08/22/14 - 01:29 pm
10
1
Waiting on "the List"

Just waiting on CountyMan to stop by with one of his enumerated lists. Perhaps a list of the top 10 reason why this development can barely get out of park.

Little Lamb
47042
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/14 - 01:32 pm
12
1
Logistics

There are logjams on Riverwatch there every rush hour. Having an outlet mall in a center with only one entrance/exit is a bad idea. Watch out, some developer will try to talk Augustans into providing a dedicated I-20 exit/entrance flyover ramp for his next project.

Wouldn't you think the proper way for a developer to go about a project such as this would be to line up the tenants first, then make your big announcement to the community? Less egg on the face that way.

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 08/22/14 - 01:42 pm
9
4
Yes, LL, but I think he was

Yes, LL, but I think he was urged to make the announcement- it was before the election and people wanted to ride on its coattails.

I think Countyman is the one with egg on his face.

storiesihaveread
358
Points
storiesihaveread 08/22/14 - 01:43 pm
10
0
My Wallet

Will will be happier since my wife has an natural attraction for outlet malls

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 08/22/14 - 01:43 pm
4
5
It was stated in the AC

It was stated in the AC before that retailers had said that there wasn't enough population in the CSRA to support retail stores AND an outlet mall.

However, if you are into outlet malls, come to the one in Charlotte, it just opened up July 31st.

Sean Moores
722
Points
Sean Moores 08/22/14 - 01:55 pm
10
0
@ Riverman

Obviously I spoke too soon.

Riverman1
87157
Points
Riverman1 08/22/14 - 02:09 pm
7
0
Sean, haha. I was going to

Sean, haha. I was going to say...

RAYRAY123
8
Points
RAYRAY123 08/22/14 - 02:39 pm
6
0
What a bummer! I was looking

What a bummer! I was looking forward to the outlet deals. It would have been nice to shop within 10 miles of home instead of traveling 130+ miles out.

foxsilong
851
Points
foxsilong 08/22/14 - 03:05 pm
7
0
foxsilong
851
Points
foxsilong 08/22/14 - 03:21 pm
5
2
this is like an ice bucket challenge

60 percent of space in the outlet mall leased before breaking ground in December. By early July, developers were working to convert letters of intent for 25 percent of the retail space into leases? 20 percent? what a lack of interest here. Big companies just don't wan to come to Augusta. It's not the city or the people of Augusta's fault really.

The people and the city were looking so enthused and passionate about the idea, and now this cancellation was thrown to Augusta's face like an ice bucket challenge.

I wonder if they can still use some of those money intended for Augusta Outlet mall for ALS?

But with 20 percent leased retail space...it isn't going to go well even if we do force it to open in Spring of 2016. I would hate a new mall to be opened and later go bankrupt and close down like what happened to Regents Mall. It will drive unwanted pests, gang activities, and become just an eye sore. It would have been even worse.

Positive Tude
9
Points
Positive Tude 08/22/14 - 04:03 pm
5
0
Great job JM ! You Rock

way to break the story ! Yes I am a little dissapointed as well. But being a Richmond County resident I certainly cant say I'm that surprised.

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 08/22/14 - 04:45 pm
7
4
Nobody can force the builder

Nobody can force the builder to develop it, it's no crime for a developer to change their mind.

And it was obvious from the start that it was all hat and no cattle.

Dixieman
15999
Points
Dixieman 08/23/14 - 08:23 pm
5
5
Dixieman's 10 point plan to revive this project

1. Legalize marijuana in Georgia. Open a dispensary on this site and watch the traffic flood in from South Carolina!
2. Double discount day -- every day -- for ARC Commissioners and their spouses. Watch them vote for big subsidies.
3. Bring in Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Rolex, etc. -- REAL luxury outfits -- and offer validated parking for corporate jets at Daniel Field with complimentary limo shuttle service to site.
4. Close TEE Center and relocate it here.
5. Ditto Chamber of Commerce building on Broad Street.
6. Mandatory relocation of 50% of new employees at Cybercommand to housing in surrounding area within walking distance of site.
7. Oh, yeah, re #7, memo to self: build housing.
8. Offer unused space to Project Jackson. Maybe it will come back to Augusta? Hello? Project Jackson? [sound of crickets chirping].
9. There is no point 9.
10. Forget these guys and roll up our sleeves to get a new firm involved and look to the future not dwell on the past! (Nah, too practical for the CSRA).

Riverman1
87157
Points
Riverman1 08/22/14 - 06:37 pm
7
0
Relax

I don't want to sound like Countyman, but the sky is not falling. There's plenty of shopping around here with more being built. The demographics will continue to bring in more. From what I saw, many of the stores would have been competing with existing businesses around the CSRA.

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 08/22/14 - 07:45 pm
4
0
I think so too, Riverman, and

I think so too, Riverman, and it would've killed a lot of businesses and the Augusta Mall.

Gage Creed
17891
Points
Gage Creed 08/22/14 - 07:48 pm
4
0
Rolodex?

A real luxury outfit!

Dixieman... just had to do it!

corgimom
34239
Points
corgimom 08/22/14 - 07:48 pm
6
4
It used to be that malls and

It used to be that malls and outlet malls were a sure winner.

The Internet has changed all that.

I still haven't been to the new outlet mall in Charlotte, and don't have plans to do it anytime soon. There's nothing there that I need.

I have enough clothing to last me for the rest of my life. I bought a pair of Easy Spirit shoes, over the Internet, because I have hard to fit feet. It was easy, cheap, and I didn't have to go anywhere and spend expensive gas to do it. The shoes were delivered right to my door.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Gage Creed
17891
Points
Gage Creed 08/22/14 - 07:49 pm
4
1
Destination?

Will Augusta still be a destination?

Gage Creed
17891
Points
Gage Creed 08/22/14 - 08:31 pm
3
1
Quick norton...

tell us about the HEI and Canalside.....

I wonder if they are still considering renaming Riverwatch to Canalwatch......

Pops
10606
Points
Pops 08/22/14 - 08:47 pm
7
2
Doesn't the developer

realize that all the traffic control boxes and going to have James Brown's portrait on them........untold thousands going to visit to see them.....Riverwatch traffic sure to increase.......

Dixieman
15999
Points
Dixieman 08/22/14 - 09:57 pm
3
1
@Gage Creed:

D'oh!!
=========================
Thank you! Stupid error now corrected.

Gage Creed
17891
Points
Gage Creed 08/22/14 - 10:04 pm
8
0
Dixieman...

I thought that might have been like the fellow selling the discounted "Briteling and Omegra" watches out the back of that van... ☺

Young Fred
18057
Points
Young Fred 08/23/14 - 03:55 am
5
1
My wife

is highly upset. My wallet sings hallelujah!

Just kidding (kind of).

nocnoc
45125
Points
nocnoc 08/23/14 - 05:44 am
8
2
2 Questions

Wonder how many people got flim·flammed, in surrounding land deals? When hard to sell surrounding properties were made to look like potential silver mines.

How much was ARC on the hook for, or did this save ARC taxpayers $$$$?

Bodhisattva
6474
Points
Bodhisattva 08/23/14 - 06:12 am
9
0
The big surprise was on the
Unpublished

The big surprise was on the local TV news when they announced that Mayor Deke Copenhaver was out of town so his assistant was interviewed. Shocked, I tell you, I was shocked.

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