Plans to renovate mill fall to pieces

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A plan to transform one of Augusta's largest and most historic landmarks into a mixed-use development along the Augusta Canal has been abandoned.

Sibley Mill, with 518,000 square feet of polished maple floors and five stories of heart-pine beams, had been under contract to a group of investors led by developer Clay Boardman, who successfully renovated nearby Enterprise Mill a decade ago.

"We thought it was going to go through, but it just didn't happen," Mr. Boardman said of the plan to buy the mill from its current owner, Avondale Mills Inc. "We made a lot of plans and had a lot of meetings, but it didn't work out."

A purchase option on the property has expired, he said, and earnest money has been returned.

Stephen Felker Jr., Avondale's vice president, said the mill is for sale.

"We don't have it listed, but it is available, and we do have some interest," he said. "We believe it's a beautiful and historic building with a lot of potential."

He would not discuss an asking price, saying it is subject to negotiation and could depend on stipulations between buyer and seller.

Mr. Boardman's plan included renovating the building into housing, retail and commercial space that would be located across the canal from the Salvation Army's planned Kroc Center in the Chafee Park area.

"We'd held a lot of discussions about how we could work together, maybe connect both areas with bicycle paths," he said.

Mr. Boardman would not elaborate on why the purchase failed but said it involved contractual obligations that could not be met by the seller. The ailing economy, he said, was not a factor.

The decision not to pursue the purchase occurred before a Superior Court ruling last week that upheld Augusta's authority to order the mill to cease generating hydropower because of low water flow in the Savannah River, he said.

"I will say, though, with them not being able to produce and sell electricity, that is bad news for the building," Mr. Boardman said. "At least then they make electricity they can pay taxes and insurance and keep those nine employees who watched over the building."

Two years ago, Sibley was included on Historic Augusta Inc.'s list of the city's most endangered historic properties. In 2008, it was listed as "saved" because of the planned renovation by the Boardman group.

Erick Montgomery, the group's executive director, said its future is uncertain.

"Clay would be an ideal owner because we know what he's capable of," he said. "We mainly want to make sure it's not torn down. Maybe the existing owner could find a use for it and put it back in service. It's an important historic building, and it needs to be preserved."

The Augusta Canal Authority, whose offices and interpretive center are housed in the renovated Enterprise Mill, is available to help, said Dayton Sherrouse, the authority's executive director.

"Unfortunately, though, I don't think there will be a lot happening till the economy turns around," he said. "It's probably going to sit there for a while."

The mill's location near the planned Kroc Center should make it attractive to developers. The 20-acre center will include a park and greenspace, classrooms, worship and conference space, offices for arts and social service groups, a 500-seat performing arts center and chapel, aquatics center and many other amenities.

Kroc Centers are part of the vision of Joan B. Kroc, widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. Mrs. Kroc, who died in 2003, left a $1.5 billion endowment to establish such centers across the nation and chose the Salvation Army to help implement her dream.

Mr. Boardman said he has faith that the Kroc Center in Augusta will raise the matching funds needed to trigger a $60 million gift from the Kroc endowment.

"I think the Kroc Center is really going to happen," he said. "And in the long term I think things are going to work out with Sibley. I just hope Avondale will eventually sell at a fair, proper price that reflects the current condition of the property."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

SIBLEY MILL HISTORY

- Sibley Mill's namesake, Josiah Sibley, was a respected Augusta cotton broker whose son William was a partner in the venture. In 1870, they traveled to New York to recruit investors for their milling company.

- The Sibleys bought 550,000 bricks that remained after the demolition of the Confederate Powderworks, which was erected there in the Civil War, for $5 per thousand. The Powderworks Monument is a preserved remnant.

- William Sibley's daughter Pearl Sibley laid the first cornerstone during a ceremony Oct. 13, 1880. She also laid the last brick on Jan. 27, 1882.

- Construction cost $788,452.

- Sibley Mill opened in 1882 with 536 looms and expanded to 880 looms by 1885.

- Sibley built neighborhoods of mill-owned stores, churches and schools. The last seven mill-owned homes were sold in 1969, and the mill closed in 2006.


-- Rob Pavey, staff writer

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GuyIncognito
1
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GuyIncognito 01/09/09 - 07:31 am
0
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Maybe the city should step in

Maybe the city should step in and take it over and make it "mixed income housing"

sick of taxes
0
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sick of taxes 01/09/09 - 07:43 am
0
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Yeah Guy, that would be

Yeah Guy, that would be another thing that the incompetent city could screw up.

BAMABOY
20
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BAMABOY 01/09/09 - 08:05 am
0
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Here is a novel idea. Turn it

Here is a novel idea. Turn it into the TEE center, Columbus used an old cotton warehouse and other cities have used old structures. OPPS. I forgot, they CVB wants a new building and will have plenty of excuses why the mill can't be used. Too many columns, not close enough to the hotels, and so on. Its tiime the city start looking at usiing old properties and seeing new uses.

edst4
0
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edst4 01/09/09 - 08:07 am
0
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Guy you been spiking your

Guy you been spiking your coffee this morning?

iletuknow
8
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iletuknow 01/09/09 - 08:28 am
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Dreadful area for anyone to

Dreadful area for anyone to live in.

ripjones
2
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ripjones 01/09/09 - 08:45 am
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Mr. Boardman -- Quit the cop

Mr. Boardman -- Quit the cop out. Tell me what Avondale was not willing to do. I'm sick and tired of secrets. Tell it like it is. I already don't like Felker anyway, just give me even more reasons.

godogs
0
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godogs 01/09/09 - 08:54 am
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Maybe a developer will step

Maybe a developer will step up and see this jewel for what it is. We need to preserve our history and make it part of today for people to enjoy the past but also be useful for today. It does not need to be used for apartments or condos, it needs to be used for some type of office or retail space so that people from all walks can utilize it and enjoy the history which could be display through pictures of the past on the walls. My son's 2nd grade class did the canal boat tour this past fall and everytime we go thorugh that area he gets excited and tells me something he learned that day. Let's make our history excitiing for our kids future! We have so much history in our area that we take it for granite and don't want to invest in it. We have so much on and around the river area that we should be wanting to tap into everything we have which in turn would create jobs and make Augusta a tourist attraction for many to want to see instead of a dead beat town that can't get past a board meeting without arguing much less get anything accomplished. We may not need or really can't afford a baseball stadium but sometimes we can't afford not to pursue progress in order for change to work

justthefacts
21698
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justthefacts 01/09/09 - 08:55 am
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ripjones, why should Mr.

ripjones, why should Mr. Boardman tell you his private business?

ripjones
2
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ripjones 01/09/09 - 08:55 am
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iletuknow - I tend to agree

iletuknow - I tend to agree with you. Enterprise Mill is safe because they have their own security. The Development Authority and the local government are trying to get well heeled individuals to live downtown in the J.B.White building, knowing full well that the ONLY time downtown is really safe, is during the few hours of First Friday each month. I can't believe that we built the Board of Education office on Broad Street. Oh wait, they ALSO have their own security.

lifelongresidient
0
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lifelongresidient 01/09/09 - 08:56 am
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maybe, just maybe if the city

maybe, just maybe if the city would have cleaned up that area and others like it the mill would be more attractive for investment and renovation by outside investors.

WhiteboyforJenkins
0
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WhiteboyforJenkins 01/09/09 - 09:01 am
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wow, 99% of the time readers

wow, 99% of the time readers comments are pretty stupid, but the idea of making the old mill into the TEE center is great! The argument against will be it is too far from the downtown hotels and parking. So my stupid idea would be to include some type of a mass transit (i.e. monorail) thing between the two. That would make it unique and interesting which it what helps attract people.

ripjones
2
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ripjones 01/09/09 - 09:07 am
0
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I have nothing but respect

I have nothing but respect for Mr. Boardman. The Boardman family have done great things for this city. But also knowing some of the things the Felker's have done, I'm curious.

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 01/09/09 - 09:09 am
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Fair housing not mixed imcome

Fair housing not mixed imcome is better. Charging one person more than another is the same as section 8 or project housing. Mixed imcome means that HUD pays part of some peoples rent. It sucks.

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 01/09/09 - 09:14 am
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Cherry Tree Crossing is

Cherry Tree Crossing is "mixed income" and no income housing. Remember this Columbia county residents; section 8 is coming to your suburban bliss real soon. We guess that you will have to continue to sprawl westward. Ain't life grand.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 01/09/09 - 09:17 am
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Tear it down, sell the bricks

Tear it down, sell the bricks and timber, and plant pine trees on it. I can think of a few more places where that should happen. Those bricks came from the old powderworks before "they tore it down." The powderworks brought my Great Greats down here from Virginia. We have been here a long time. But, there is no need to rehab ancient, unsafe monstrosities with public money just because they are old looking brick jobs. All they do is remind us that our jobs have moved to another country. Enterprise Mill was probably a tax job using IRS rules to protect capital gains, not an altruistic "for my city" investment.

SandyK2005
1
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SandyK2005 01/09/09 - 09:17 am
0
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Monorail? There will be a

Monorail? There will be a riot, because APT can't even get the established bus routes right. The problem in this city is they dream big, and in doing so, nothing is done as it isn't practical. Remember the hoopla over light rail? Too big of a project, with too few who'll use it (as folks are too dependent on their cars -- even if flights to Atlanta were $50, they'll still want to use their car!). Need smaller projects, that over time, and collectively, adds up to a large beautification plan. Bite sized budgets are also easier to obtain (especially in these economic times). The city needs to think about the whole area, not just downtown (with the bus system it is, you can count even less would participate in activities downtown, as the last bus out to the county is 3:30pm). City projects need to include all Augusta, with a vision that all have access to it.

SandyK2005
1
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SandyK2005 01/09/09 - 09:25 am
0
0
"We have been here a long

"We have been here a long time. But, there is no need to rehab ancient, unsafe monstrosities with public money" ---- Hope you're just trolling, as that's fighting words. You see all of the interest in the Augusta Canal? It's not for show, as those who's families have lived here even before 1861, would consider things like the canal, Butt's bridge and Sibley's their own history. People don't preserve and conserve unless it has a direct impact on their own family history.

Pazuzuu
0
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Pazuzuu 01/09/09 - 09:48 am
0
0
Typical for Richmond County.

Typical for Richmond County. As long as people fee unsafe in Richmond County there will be no development. Hire more police officers and put them on foot and bike patrol.

mommie2
2
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mommie2 01/09/09 - 09:49 am
0
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This place should be turned

This place should be turned into a museum. It's one of the most beautiful places in Augusta. Augusta is rich with history about the Civil War, mills, and the canal. This place would be perfect for that. Please don't destroy it or let it go to waste.

stillamazed
1488
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stillamazed 01/09/09 - 10:04 am
0
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I think that building is

I think that building is beautiful also, to bad something nice can't be done with it. Everytime I drive by it I always enjoy looking at it, it reminds me of an old castle or fortress. Augusta should use some of it's history like Savannah does and profit from all the history.

RU4Real
0
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RU4Real 01/09/09 - 10:13 am
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I wasn't here before 1961,

I wasn't here before 1961, and my family wasn't here in 1861. But I still see the need to perserve and restore the icons. I love knowing that MCG reused the Sears store, I am glad the we were able to "Save our Butt", and the work at the head of the Canal is wonderful. Most of the downtown restorations are nice as well even some are now wore down again. But I think the best way to revitalize Augusta is for it to quit making itself the butt of jokes, and reach out to include all of the metro area. Our biggest problem stems from other neighboring counties wanting seperate themselves from what they perceive as poor trash that can not afford to move.

truthisouttherestill
0
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truthisouttherestill 01/09/09 - 10:20 am
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yea hire more police officers

yea hire more police officers so they can be shot at, have bottles thrown at them, be run over by vehicles, and abused by the people living there

Little Lamb
45819
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Little Lamb 01/09/09 - 10:22 am
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I agree with DuhJudge.

I agree with DuhJudge. Except I would plant hardwoods such as hackberry, black gum, white oak, and other water-loving trees.

SandyK2005
1
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SandyK2005 01/09/09 - 10:24 am
0
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"yea hire more police

"yea hire more police officers so they can be shot at, have bottles thrown at them, be run over by vehicles, and abused by the people living there" --- The move over there and show by example you're a civic minded citizen to clean up the mess. Until then, cops are the logical choice (as no one else is willing to do it).

mommie2
2
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mommie2 01/09/09 - 10:30 am
0
0
We should start a group.

We should start a group. "Save Sibley Mill!"

truthisouttherestill
0
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truthisouttherestill 01/09/09 - 10:36 am
0
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why should cops be willing to

why should cops be willing to do it when all they get for doing their job is crap and poor pay........if you are so civic minded then you clean up the mess in your own area.........go outside your door and chase the gun totin drug dealer away and then not worry about the safety of your children because they want to get even........the next time they set fire to something then you go put it out so the firefighters don't have to be subjected to abuse either...........there should be enough civic minded people living there now to stop the crap.........if not then how do you think the police will be able to fix it.........until the community steps up to stop it the police can't do much.........people have to take back their own neighborhoods

Pazuzuu
0
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Pazuzuu 01/09/09 - 10:46 am
0
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Truth I would gladly blow the

Truth I would gladly blow the head off of any hommie or thug that threatens me or many family. Let there be no doubt about that. Would be great if I could immunity. God forgives not me.

True that Richmond county Police need higher pay more protection and benefits. NO DOUBT about that.

How will the Richmond County spiral into Somalia end? I remember last summer when the county suggested a raise in taxes to pay officers more and the NAACP came in and said it was racist.

truthisouttherestill
0
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truthisouttherestill 01/09/09 - 10:56 am
0
0
how can paying police more be

how can paying police more be racist........i don't get that.......to me that is just another example of why the naacp is an outdated organization that now does more harm than good......it had its time and place but now either needs to be totally revamped or just done away with........the same goes for labor unions in my opinion.........my family and i used to go downtown regularly to fort discovery, events at james brown arena, shopping, the river walk, first friday, etc..............now we have put augusta on a no go area list and i fear that until the people living there decide to stand up and do something for themselves more people will be doing the same and not going there

SteveCagle
12
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SteveCagle 01/09/09 - 11:08 am
0
0
Turn it into a Jail House,

Turn it into a Jail House, I'll have no problem paying taxes to keep thugs locked up vs. having them running the streets. With 518,000 SQ.FT., that would hold quite a few of these bad boys and with the location, it keeps them down there in an area I don't frequent very often.

fftaz71
108
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fftaz71 01/09/09 - 11:29 am
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truth...my husband and I

truth...my husband and I regularly go downtown to shop on Broad street, and go to our church which is on Telfair. Granted, I havent been here long, but my husband lived here in Augusta back in 2005. From what he remembers, Broad street has cleaned up some. I feel safer downtown than I do at the Augusta Mall, although I will admit I have not been downtown alone yet. I dont know, maybe its because I just came from the Tampa area, but it doesnt seem so bad here.

If you are afraid, then you give the thugs all the power. They feed off of fear. How do you stand up and do something about it if everyone feels as you do?

The cops alone will never solve the problems. Too many people think the government or its entities should do the hard work for them. The only way people will clean up their neighborhoods is to clean up their yards, take pride in what they have however big/small old or new it is, and start working together with the police. It can be done...Ive seen it in my hometown. The residents took back some of the bad areas street by street, but they did it. Once the residents showed resolve, the police were that much more effective.

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