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MCG Foundation criticizes handling of Augusta Public Transit property

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 5:16 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 2:22 AM
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Medical College of Georgia Foundation Inc. is crying foul after its longtime interest in buying the nearby city bus depot has apparently been rebuffed in favor of a company developing a Walmart, an official said. But Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said the foundation “tried to steal the Walmart from the developer” after Bowles tried to arrange a meeting between the foundation and the developer, Blanchard and Calhoun.

“In the business world, it’s very disturbing to treat a developer like that, especially a local developer interested in investing in Augusta,” he said. “They tried to circumvent the system.”

Foundation President and CEO James Osborne, whose organization owns an adjoining piece of land on 15th Street, said he “didn’t try to steal anything. I was acting on behalf of the foundation and the university.”

City Administrator Fred Russell said years of talks with the foundation went nowhere, and he took the best plan that would provide a grocery store for the neighborhood in the long term.

“You can’t make everybody happy,” he said.

Osborne said the foundation contacted Walmart directly after hearing the company was interested in downtown “and they were very interested” in the foundation’s property, he said. After meeting with an agent of the company in early January, the foundation was told a letter of intent would come within 10 days, but it never did. Osborne said he never spoke to Bowles about a meeting with Blanchard and Calhoun.

Then two weeks ago, the foundation met with Russell about the Augusta Public Transit property, which is next to the foundation’s shopping center on 15th Street, Osborne said. Russell told the foundation the city property was being sold for $400,000 to Blanchard and Calhoun, Osborne said. Russell did not confirm that figure but said it “sounds close.”

Osborne was told the deal would be put on hold, but Russell said he conferred with the commission, and it wanted to move forward with the deal.

The foundation has been trying to acquire the bus depot and its 3½ acres for at least the past seven years, Osborne said. About six or seven years ago, the foundation thought it had a deal to buy the property for $1 million, but “then it was blocked,” he said, and the foundation was never told why. Russell said he doesn’t remember ever having a final deal for the property.

The MCG Foundation’s shopping center has a Kroger grocery store, and the lease for that store was renewed in January, contrary to reports the store is closing, Osborne said.

“(Russell) said that Kroger had told him they were going to leave. But that’s not accurate,” Osborne said. “We told him that, and I thought that would shed some light on his concern that we’d be left here without a grocery store. We don’t see Kroger leaving in the foreseeable future.”

But that’s not what Russell and Bowles say they are hearing.

“My conversations with Kroger is they are not overly happy there,” Russell said. “My problem is I need a grocery store in the neighborhood. Best case scenario, whatever (the foundation does) there, that grocery store goes away. I need a long-term commitment to that community to have a grocery store. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush at this particular point in time.”

The Kroger lease is year-to-year and both sides have an option to terminate with six months’ notice, Osborne said. So Russell said he took the best deal, which was to allow Blanchard and Calhoun to develop a store on the site.

“A boutique Walmart, 40,000-square-foot, that’s going to be a new, exciting investment for that corner that hopefully can fit into (foundation) plans one way or the other,” Russell said. “Or maybe we can jointly plan this together. But we had to get off the nail. We’ve been on the cusp of some great thing for the last seven years. And I am getting tired of sitting on cusp. It’s time to move.”

If the project does not produce a grocery store, in fact, the land reverts to the city, Russell said.

A representative of Blanchard and Calhoun did not return three calls Wednesday seeking comment. Osborne said he would still like to make a proposal about the property and would like to see public hearings on it. Bowles said it is about putting the land in that area in play.

“This is about getting a piece of property back onto the tax base,” Bowles said. “It’s about a whole bunch of property around the bus property,” including parcels south of the Walmart tract because the new store, known as a Walmart Neighborhood Market, is likely to face Walton Way, he said.

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whiteflighttocc1
20
Points
whiteflighttocc1 02/22/12 - 06:57 pm
0
0
i thought the city had to
Unpublished

i thought the city had to offer property for sale to the public openly rather than behind closed doors to a local person. someone is getting rich off of this. 400K for a site for walmart is a STEAL!!!!

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 02/22/12 - 07:25 pm
0
4
My conversation was in

My conversation was in December with a ranking official at GHSU not the foundation. That should clarify why the Foundation "heard" of wal-marts intentions. So much for trying to get people to work together, at least working with the Foundation

tckr1983
360
Points
tckr1983 02/22/12 - 08:32 pm
1
1
Snooze you lose... apparently

Snooze you lose... apparently you need 8 years, two presidential terms to buy a property. Who knew? MCG Foundation looks like a whiny 5-year old to be honest here... The neighborhood Wal-mart's aren't the usual Wal-mart, they're architecturally trendy and definitely not an eyesore to the gateway of the medical district/MCG/Walton way area.

eb97
835
Points
eb97 02/22/12 - 09:03 pm
2
2
I believe those that live

I believe those that live downtown will be glad to see it coming. I'm sure it will be nice and a trendy place to shop. With high gas prices, I'm sure people are very happy it is coming their way.

Riverman1
83818
Points
Riverman1 02/22/12 - 09:09 pm
2
0
The MCG Foundation is

The MCG Foundation is anything but a whinny bunch. These people contribute millions to MCG in Augusta with nothing but the good of a state owned hospital and medical school in mind.

whiteflighttocc1
20
Points
whiteflighttocc1 02/22/12 - 09:09 pm
0
0
STATE LAW MANDATES THAT
Unpublished

STATE LAW MANDATES THAT GOVERNMENT OWNED PROEPRTY (INCLUDING CITY OF AUGUSTA PROPERTY) MUST BE SOLD THROUGH SEALED BID OR AUCITON. WHEN WAS THIS PROPERTY OFFERED TO PUBLIC?????

whiteflighttocc1
20
Points
whiteflighttocc1 02/22/12 - 09:11 pm
0
0
I believe its good for
Unpublished

I believe its good for downtown but the property should be sold for a fair price. wal-mart ussually pays over 1MM for sites minimum. plus worse tracts have sold on walton recentely for over 500K per acre. someone is getting rich on this (the developer) becuase they know people in the city and can push it through even though selling it straight to a developer would violate state law!!!

Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 02/22/12 - 09:37 pm
2
0
The rest of the story will

The rest of the story will come out in pieces.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 02/22/12 - 10:08 pm
0
0
Not backing either of the two
Unpublished

Not backing either of the two parties interested in this property but I would have to say the handling of this sale doesn't pass the smell test. Anyone interested in it should have had equal opportunity. Fred Russell says "I need a grocery store". Now thats rich....the only thing big shot needs is to move on to the next sucker city willing to hire him.
Kroger isn't happy with their store because it's overrun by bums, thugs and druggies and that ain't going to change with a walmart in the neighborhood. People run to and from their cars from the parking lot to avoid getting hit on or mugged. Walmart just seems to attract some real "characters as customers. Oh, what the heck I don't live in the neighborhood, "welcome to downtown walmart".

whiteflighttocc1
20
Points
whiteflighttocc1 02/22/12 - 10:48 pm
0
0
who wants to be a certain
Unpublished

who wants to be a certain commisison goes to work for this developor once his term is up instead of running for mayor!!! kickback while in office??? lets tick MCG off while they are talking about moving to Athens or atlanta. Brilliant. just to please a local developor and line thier pocket... walmart should take the kroger instead

raul
4865
Points
raul 02/22/12 - 11:39 pm
2
0
Everyone needs to tape

Everyone needs to tape conversations for the record. For some reason nobody remembers what was said to whom.

tckr1983
360
Points
tckr1983 02/23/12 - 12:21 am
1
0
They've had 7 years...

They've had 7 years... Obviously the MCG foundation does a lot of good here, but this is a little ridiculous to be making a stink about it after 7 years. My wife works at MCG... not just some "hater" here you're talking to... Point being, they have and have had the money to buy this parcel of land if they wanted to!

Riverman1
83818
Points
Riverman1 02/23/12 - 05:57 am
4
1
Look at the updated story.

Look at the updated story. The foundation offered $1 million for the property several years ago, but the city wouldn't sell it to them. Then they sell for $400 thousand to Blanchard and Calhoun? This doesn't make sense. MCG is going to be here long after a Walmart.

Lori Davis
920
Points
Lori Davis 02/23/12 - 06:52 am
1
0
As conservative man said.

As conservative man said. This will come out in pieces.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 02/23/12 - 07:07 am
1
2
River, I have been on the

River, I have been on the commission for 6 years and have never seen any offers from the Foundation for any property. Last I checked we stroked a 10 million dollar check to mcg a few years ago.

Right on
187
Points
Right on 02/23/12 - 09:11 am
1
0
The Foundation has been

The Foundation has been buying property in the area for many years and purchased four parcels through the landbank recently. They have always had an interest in the bus barn property and anybody who is somebody knows this. An offer was taken years ago from the Foundation to buy the property. The Landbank has a set of rules they must follow. If you look on their website you will see them Here is the order of importance.
Disposition Schedule of Interested Purchasers
(Ranked in Order)
(1)Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDO’s)
(2)Community Development Corporations (CDC)
(3)Government Entities
(4)Non-Profit Institutions (such as academic institutions)
(5)Entities that are a partnership, limited liability corporation, or joint venture composed of a non-profit corporation and a private for-profit entity
(6)Adjacent Property Owner(s)
(7)Local Developers with a proven track record and the capacity to complete projects

Developers lining their pockets at the expense of the city(tax payers) comes last. The Foundation meets two criteria much further up the pecking order. Of course these are guidelines and not laws so no law suit there. It just stinks!!!
These developers are close friends with the Mayor and several city leaders. The Foundation is the non-profit arm of GHSU. They provide scholarships and endowments for the Medical School. The Medical school is one of three pillars of our community. Do you really want to bite the hand of those who feed the Medical school and line the pockets of these developers. Absloutely not.
There are the ones who have the money and own prpoerty in the city and control the city. There are those with their hands out wanting a piece of the action. I assure you there will be at least a 200% markup once the property is put together. Do you really think these developers are doing what is best for our community. No sir, they are doing it for money. They do not care who they run over and I guess the city leaders do not as well.
Sounds like a parking deck we bought without fee simple rights to the land and a lien on the land. If you do not own the land and the land is lost through a foreclosure proceeding, sorry Augusta, the deck goes right along with it. Air rights? Sorry if the deck is attached to the land and I would imagine it is, it is part of the land.

Little Lamb
45946
Points
Little Lamb 02/23/12 - 08:54 am
2
0
Isn't Blanchard & Calhoun the

Isn't Blanchard & Calhoun the same development company that put together that strip mall at Fury's Ferry Rd & Evans-to-Locks Rd? They promised the people a grocery store, Food Lion moved in, then promptly shut down. That strip mall is largely vacant now.

Be careful of what developers promise. Once the buildings are built the developers are off the hook. It would be better if the city gets a promisory letter directly from Wal-Mart than from Blanchard & Calhoun.

Right on
187
Points
Right on 02/23/12 - 08:59 am
3
2
Mr. Bowles, So much for

Mr. Bowles,
So much for how long you have been on the Commission. I have been around all the players in this town for many years and I know them and I know how it works. If the players want something they get it. If you are not a player, you are told no. You have no idea about everything the Administator does or says. I do not think you have enough time in the day to know.

Right on
187
Points
Right on 02/23/12 - 09:09 am
2
0
Little Lamb you are correct.

Little Lamb you are correct. Look at little closer at the ones with Blanchard & Calhoun and you will see a trail. You know the Mayor worked for them when he was out of work looking at running for Mayor. I hear Wal Mart is looking at the Food Lion now. Interesting, Wal Mart was looking at building across the street behind the fire station in front of Jones Creek. I guess they knew Food Lion who is on the hook(20 years) would never last so Wal Mart puts pressure about coming in and guess what, Food Lion closes and now Wal Mart is considering it. Amazing. I guess if you talk about Wal Mart coming on 15th Street, it will definitely run Kroger off. Then they want to face it towards Walton Way. The main entrance to the Medical School comes from Riverwatch/Calhoun expressway. Do we really want to look at the back of a large box!!!

Little Lamb
45946
Points
Little Lamb 02/23/12 - 09:09 am
1
0
It does seem to me that three

It does seem to me that three and a half acres is not big enough for a Wal-Mart, even one of those "boutique" Wal-Mart. Surely they will want to add on a few more parcels before they build. And the other parcels are privately owned. Wouldn't they want the corner and the Pizza Hut?

Little Lamb
45946
Points
Little Lamb 02/23/12 - 09:11 am
3
0
Right On has a good point

Right On has a good point about Russell. He keeps the commissioners in the dark until he is ready to spring his surprises at commission meetings. If you do not believe me, ask Bill Lockett, Johnny Hatney, and Grady Smith.

seenitB4
87116
Points
seenitB4 02/23/12 - 09:14 am
1
0
right on...you are so right

right on...you are so right on about this....

"I know how it works. If the players want something they get it"

and that ain't gonna change anytime soon.....:)

Hey....I'm looking forward to the horse race myself!

Right on
187
Points
Right on 02/23/12 - 09:16 am
2
0
Yes, do they have these

Yes, do they have these parcels under control? Maybe. The Foundation owns property so one day when the school needs it, it will be there for expansion. Donors like Mr. Weiss gave the shopping center to the Foundation as a donation as he saw the future need for expansion.

Right on
187
Points
Right on 02/23/12 - 09:26 am
1
0
I am all for downtown

I am all for downtown development and would like for Wal-Mart or any other retailer to locate in the city. WinnDixie wanted to come downtown way before Kroger even came on the horizon and there was no available land. Can anyone remember their location where Georgia Power is on Walton Way. We just do not need to bite the hand that feeds us.

allhans
23641
Points
allhans 02/23/12 - 10:07 am
0
1
Maybe not that location but

Maybe not that location but the folks working and/or living in the area needs a place to shop and the current Kroger is NOT it (Kroger has few carts, most have been stolen).
I know a single parent with two children living near Tubman with no means of transportation, a Walmart would be a tremendous help to families such as this.

bdouglas
5008
Points
bdouglas 02/23/12 - 10:48 am
1
0
"It does seem to me that

"It does seem to me that three and a half acres is not big enough for a Wal-Mart, even one of those "boutique" Wal-Mart. Surely they will want to add on a few more parcels before they build. And the other parcels are privately owned. Wouldn't they want the corner and the Pizza Hut?"

LL: One of the other articles from the past couple days stated that Walmart has already said it needs more space than that and has purchased some parcels around this tract already.

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/23/12 - 10:53 am
0
0
mcg and ghsu doesnt own this
Unpublished

mcg and ghsu doesnt own this town no matter what they seem to think they are in a major land grab right now they own so much land that people dont know about or even care to know about its getting just a tad greedy

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/23/12 - 10:57 am
0
0
well RIGHT ON mr bowles puts
Unpublished

well RIGHT ON mr bowles puts his name beside his comment just who are you that knows all the goings on round here...that knows thing a commissioner doesnt what board do you sit on i mean really thats a pretty coarse accusation when you make it anonymously

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 02/23/12 - 10:59 am
3
1
And, a WalMart downtown may

And, a WalMart downtown may well keep some of those "undesirables" from moving out to Magnolia Terrace.

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/23/12 - 11:08 am
0
0
hahahahahaaha anybody who is
Unpublished

hahahahahaaha anybody who is somebody knows this....yeah just like the tee center, parking deck, now marriot fiasco anybody who is somebody shoulda knew exactly what was going on with that too but they sure didnt know about the air rights liens and all that even tho just a wee lil bit of investigation woulda told all

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