Pardon Our Mess: former J.C. Penney on Broad Street

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WHERE: 732 Broad St.

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The old J.C. Penny building has been vacant for years and is missing windows and has accumulated debris in doorways.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
The old J.C. Penny building has been vacant for years and is missing windows and has accumulated debris in doorways.

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WHAT: The boarded-up hulk of a former J.C. Penney store.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE: Bonnie Ruben bought the structure in 1988, but it remains unused. The ground floor is boarded up, but debris is strewn in doorways and a few upper floor windows are missing.

ACTION TAKEN: Augusta Code Enforcement Manager Pam Costabile said the building is in violation of the International Property Maintenance Code, 2003 edition – which is enforced by the city – due to missing windows, loose brick and debris, but the office has been working with Ruben and her attorney on getting the issues addressed.

“You can’t imagine how much energy it takes to keep that clean,” Ruben said of the doorways, citing the prevalence of homeless people in the area. “The internet and anonymous letters are a great way to attack someone,” she added.

Ruben said she’s envisioned for years converting the structure into a mixed-use residential-retail complex with loft apartments and a rooftop bar but due to slow redevelopment and other factors, “downtown is not ready for that yet.”

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Pops
10551
Points
Pops 10/20/13 - 10:19 pm
10
0
She seems

a little thinskinned.......

Doing her part to keep the slum image of Augusta out there.

jamc1103
141
Points
jamc1103 10/21/13 - 01:43 am
14
0
She is one of the reasons...

that downtown is not ready for the very type of redevelopment she is hoping for yet. She owns several properties downtown that are in the same shape as this building. She doens't keep them up. Then when some shows interest in one of her places, she expects them to pay for the clean up and restoration/bringing them up to code. While also wanting to charge market rates or above to lease.
She can either pay to fix them up on her own and then charge fair market rates, or allow her prospective tenet to fix it up, but knock some off of the lease in order to cover their costs in fixing up the neglected building for her. She wants both, thus her buildings stay empty.

angedelune
223
Points
angedelune 10/21/13 - 05:45 am
15
0
SLUMLORD!!!

She's been saying that for years and years now. "Oh, Augusta isn't ready for that yet." translates to, "I don't want to spend any money on anything, because im waiting on some big company to come and buy the place for an my inflated price so I can make a ton of money off of it."
If the city would designate all of downtown historic and force these people to bring buildings up to code, we MIGHT see an actual renaissance take place.
Then again if that is her plan remember this Ms. Ruben, "If you build it, they will come." Come on, be the first to start the work. The nicer you make your buildings, the more it will attract others to do so, and the more people you'll see coming DT.

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 10/21/13 - 06:37 am
0
0
Maintenance funds? City Codes & Requirements? LOL LOL
Unpublished

Maintenance funds? City Codes & Requirements? LOL LOL

soapy_725
43772
Points
soapy_725 10/21/13 - 06:38 am
0
0
ARC Government is the biggest slum lord.
Unpublished

ARC Government is the biggest slum lord.

justthefacts
22759
Points
justthefacts 10/21/13 - 07:29 am
11
0
If the city would designate all of downtown historic

Historic? But, didn't they just designate it a slum?

Little Lamb
47010
Points
Little Lamb 10/21/13 - 08:09 am
4
0
Epic

Downtown is a slum of historic significance.

If all she has to do to get code enforcement off her back is board up the missing windows upstairs and grout in a few loose bricks, it shouldn't take too much time.

angedelune
223
Points
angedelune 10/21/13 - 08:18 am
5
2
confiscate

they just need to confiscate these building from these people and sell them to people who will actually do stuff with them. if the building has been empty for more than 10 years then it's time to sell it off at a reasonable price.

Riverman1
87034
Points
Riverman1 10/21/13 - 08:50 am
4
4
Nobody is buying is the

Nobody is buying is the problem. Downtown is not ready for development. Bonnie has done a lot of good down there with her hotel and store that she has kept open.

Little Lamb
47010
Points
Little Lamb 10/21/13 - 09:01 am
6
3
Socialism

Sorry, angedelune, but the property belongs to someone else. It is the owner's prerogative to manage their property as they see fit. If they want to leave it vacant it is their business.

The U.S. is moving faster than ever toward a socialist state. At some point the government will have the power to confiscate private property without compensation, but government cannot do that at this time.

itsanotherday1
45482
Points
itsanotherday1 10/21/13 - 09:38 am
9
1
I don't agree with

I don't agree with confiscation, but in situations like this I do approve of codes forcing property owners to meet certain standards.

It is no different than covenants in a neighborhood. If you don't want a HOA telling you to cut your grass or disallowing a fence over 6 feet; don't buy in a neighborhood that has covenants. If you don't want to be forced to maintain your building facade to a certain standard, don't buy property in the area governed by those codes.

Pretty simple concept if you ask me. As far as I'm concerned, the city would do well to require all downtown buildings to have windows and doors- no board ups. If they don't want urban outdoorsmen and wannabe thugs hanging out in front, keep it clean and well lit.

deestafford
28762
Points
deestafford 10/21/13 - 09:41 am
9
1
It's a shame to see that old building looking like that.

Somewhere in out stuff I have a picture and newspaper clipping of JC Penny visiting Augusta in the 40's or very early 50's and right there in the middle of the picture is my grandmother. She was just a grinnin'. Those were the days when ladies would not go downtown without wearing hats and gloves.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/21/13 - 09:52 am
4
0
meh - drop in the bucket, but

meh - drop in the bucket, but yeah, JC Penny bldg is a pretty big drop.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/21/13 - 09:56 am
8
0
I do take exception to those

I do take exception to those who buy up a property when cheap and then depreciate it through apathy toward maintenance. It gives them an unfair advantage over a commercial property owner that plays by the rules. I suspect at an opportune time, the money will be available for Ruben to bring the property up to code but by then the damage is done to the free-market and it can't be undone. Congratulations on throwing your neighbors under the bus for profits i guess.

raul
5334
Points
raul 10/21/13 - 10:20 am
8
0
Vacant for 25 years or

Vacant for 25 years or longer. Probably has deteriorated to the point of not being salvageable. If you own something, you keep it maintained. Period.

Little Lamb
47010
Points
Little Lamb 10/21/13 - 10:58 am
5
2
Property Taxes

When Bonnie Ruben decides to retire from real estate and stops paying property taxes on her holdings, the county will be in a pickle trying to pick the future owners of her property.

vermint
862
Points
vermint 10/21/13 - 11:05 am
8
0
Energy to Keep Clean?

Ms. Ruben states "You can't imagine how much energy it takes to keep that clean"...really? I've been downtown for 13 years, walk past there regularly, and can't even REMEMBER the last time I've seen that doorway clean! So...how much energy is being used?

Little Lamb
47010
Points
Little Lamb 10/21/13 - 12:06 pm
3
2
Eyes Ahead

Do what I do; just don't notice it when you walk by.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 10/21/13 - 12:28 pm
7
0
Just get over it and clean it

Just get over it and clean it up, Bonnie.

countyman
20627
Points
countyman 10/21/13 - 02:32 pm
3
3
Fact

The owners have to be held accountable for bringing their properties up to code. The Central Business District is apart of the National Register Historical District.. The others areas include Olde Town, Laney Walker, Harrisburg, and Bethlehem.

''Ruben said she’s envisioned for years converting the structure into a mixed-use residential-retail complex with loft apartments and a rooftop bar but due to slow redevelopment and other factors, “downtown is not ready for that yet.”

I have to fully disagree with the statement, because of the recent developments. The $100 million Watermark(two condo towers, Hilton hotels, office building) development would be reality if the developer had begun major construction prior to the recession. I won't compare the Watermark though against 732 Broad street, because the riverfront is a much better location versus lower Broad at the moment.

I won't even compare the smaller recent mixed-use developments(Emporium, etc) against 732 Broad street, because of the size.

I'll even admit it's harder to attract development to the lower portion of Broad compared to 10th and 11th streets. The 12 apts/Farmhaus Burgers/Craft and Vine at 1204 Broad shouldn't be compared then..

The Whites Building and Enterprise Mill can be compared against 732 Broad. The White Building in the CBD and the Enterprise Mill(just outside the CBD) have been renovated.. The Whites Building is located in the middle of Broad and became mixed-use(51 condos and multiple businesses). The renovation even included the vacant building on Ellis street which is now private parking.
http://thejbwhitesbuilding.com/

The building at 301 9th street is HUGE, and sold to an private developer. How is lower Broad worse off compared to 9th street?
https://maps.google.com/maps?ie=UTF-8&layer=c&z=17&iwloc=A&sll=33.474898...

The old Woolworth building on 8th street had plans before the recession, and something else is coming sooner or later.
http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/business/local-business/2009-03-18/con...

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/21/13 - 02:08 pm
5
0
It's always a convenience to

It's always a convenience to stockpile property and only spend on maintaining it when it's convenient or the area is "ready for development". Sorry but 2 years maybe, 25 years and you're just rubbing it in everyone's face.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 10/21/13 - 02:24 pm
5
1
If you can't or won't

If you can't or won't maintain it , don't buy it.

Darby
26970
Points
Darby 10/21/13 - 03:21 pm
3
2
If she had been successful in her run for Mayor,

what would be her position on that building and its current condition?

Just wondering....

countyman
20627
Points
countyman 10/21/13 - 03:45 pm
2
4
Code enforcement

The city finally becoming progressive in terms of ENFORCING the code enforcement is the fastest and easiest solution to make people repair or sell their vacant properties...

How do you expect developers to pay for the building and bringing the property up to code?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/21/13 - 03:50 pm
6
0
Darby

my guess is that if she'd won, that was the "development" she was referring to.

Riverman1
87034
Points
Riverman1 10/21/13 - 04:14 pm
4
2
Vermit said, "I've been

Vermit said, "I've been downtown for 13 years, walk past there regularly, and can't even REMEMBER the last time I've seen that doorway clean!"

That photo is not of the Broad St. entrance, keep in mind. The photo is deceiving actually since it is the other entrance. Also, wasn't a new roof put on the building a few years ago?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/21/13 - 04:24 pm
4
0
It wouldn't be half as bad if

It wouldn't be half as bad if the property wasn't front-row on main street of the commercial district. Buy whatever you want but remember properties with more value in the frontage require and deserve better care. My suggestion is going forward, scale it back and buy a few empties in a strip mall . Plenty out there and not so much exposure with regard to keeping it maintained.

angedelune
223
Points
angedelune 10/22/13 - 07:35 am
1
1
regardless

you can make excuses for her all you want, but when you break it down, she's still just a slumlord. compare the property taxes she is paying on the place to what she is asking for it. also, if you have a building you aren't willing to put money into and it's just an eyesore and a blight on the community then you should do something about it. Bonnie Ruben is a blight on the community as well. She may have done good things in the past, but apparently she lost her pride, her community spirit, or her zest for trying to help our downtown. Sorry, I say take it from her or make her bring it up to code and then sell it.

vermint
862
Points
vermint 10/22/13 - 03:45 pm
3
0
Broad St. Entrance

The Broad Street entrance is the one I see almost every day, and it is NASTY (though maybe not QUITE as bad as the picture of the side entrance)! It may have been cleaned once or twice in the last 13 years, but it's been a long time. I do think Riverman is right about the new roof, but it sure doesn't help the streetside appearance/smell of the building. I grew up shopping on Broad Street, have a business down here now, and it's just sad to see so many neglected buildings.

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