Many developments stalled by economy remain on hold

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As the delayed opening of a chain car dealership in Augusta happens Wednesday, other announced developments for the area remain on hold.

Claude Key (right) and Kesha Butler work with new Carmax employee Brandon Walker before Wednesday's grand opening. The car dealer's opening was delayed for more than a year.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Claude Key (right) and Kesha Butler work with new Carmax employee Brandon Walker before Wednesday's grand opening. The car dealer's opening was delayed for more than a year.

CarMax, at 130 Mason McKnight Jr. Parkway, was stagnant for more than a year before the economy turned around enough for the company to hire 35 people and stock it with cars.

The used-car retailer will open its first Georgia store outside Atlanta with a ceremony and an appearance by its chief executive.

Plans for a Bass Pro Shop and a shopping center and mixed-use development in Evans don't appear to be coming to fruition in the immediate future.

Executives from Bass Pro Shops are feeling good, but a return to Augusta to launch their store hasn't been set.

There are no plans to start up construction, said Larry Whiteley, a spokesman for Bass Pro.

"We're very optimistic ourselves, but this whole thing isn't up to us -- it's the developers," Whiteley said.

Construction on a 100,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops store off River Watch Parkway has been on hold for more than a year because of the economy.

In April 2008 Missouri-based Bass Pro announced plans for a store in a larger development, Village at Riverwatch. The store is expected to bring about 250 jobs to the area.

Messages left with the communications office for MGHerring Group, the Texas-based project developer, were not returned.

An Evans mixed-use development remains in limbo as a lawsuit filed against Columbia County government officials waits to go to trial this year.

For more than a year, a Chili's restaurant has been the only business to locate in Marshall Square between Evans Town Center Boulevard and North Belair Road.

The county and developers bumped heads in 2009 after county officials limited apartment units in Marshall Square to 189.

Marshall Square developers filed a lawsuit against the county, claiming its decision on site plan revisions was "overly restrictive" and "unduly burdensome."

In April, Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet denied Marshall Square developers a motion for partial summary judgment, said Bill Trotter, an attorney for the developers.

Trotter said he anticipates a trial starting in July.

In February, developers said they had cut prices of the land by 40 percent, lowering the cost of a half-acre lot to $223,000.

"That's really helped get people interested, and we're going to continue to do some marketing here," said Don Lawrence, of D.C. Lawrence Commercial LLC.

As a result, Lawrence said, several medical and professional office groups have shown "serious interest" in the property.

Construction on a second phase of the Mullins Crossings shopping center was originally scheduled to start by the end of 2008. But now the owners are seeking a zoning change from commercial to R-1, or single-family residential.

That classification could also allow storage, said Nayna Mistry, Columbia County planning manager.

The second phase, developers said at the time, was to include two out-parcels, 130,000 square feet of store space, anchored by Hobby Lobby.

Hobby Lobby opened a store in the Augusta Exchange shopping center, and the second phase of Mullins Crossing never got under way.

"The ideal use would be commercial, but as you know commercial is kind of slow right now," Mistry said.

She added that the owners have been unable to sell the property. No formal reason for a rezoning request is required on the application.

The application was submitted last month by Joseph Mullins, and the request will be heard at a June 3 meeting of the Columbia County Planning Commission, Mistry said. A recommendation will be made and submitted to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, who will make a final decision.

Phone messages left for developer Frank Mullins were not returned.

Comments (19) Add comment
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speeding
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speeding 05/18/10 - 01:54 am
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Gosh! Wonder what the problem

Gosh! Wonder what the problem is?

corgimom
32429
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corgimom 05/18/10 - 06:48 am
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Hey, Augusta has one of the

Hey, Augusta has one of the best economies in the US. Just ask Countyman.

storiesihaveread
358
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storiesihaveread 05/18/10 - 07:12 am
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Corqimom it is better than

Corqimom it is better than must parts of the country, due in part to SRP, Ft Gordon, all the hospitals and plants we have. In MI it is really doom and gloom

sojourner
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sojourner 05/18/10 - 08:10 am
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So has CarMax and the AC

So has CarMax and the AC forgotten about the location that was at Gordon Hwy and I-20 that flopped already? What are they thinking opening a new one?

countyman
20120
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countyman 05/18/10 - 11:57 am
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Sojourner....Gordon hwy

Sojourner....Gordon hwy doesn't connect to I-20...

In the next couple of month's will start to see improvement on these shopping areas..

Bass pro and their website still says they're coming to Riverwatch pkwy/I-20 area in West Augusta.... Augusta is on their website listed on the GA map for a future store.
http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPageC?storeId=10151&c...

The Carmax opens May 22nd in West Augusta. The rest of the development will start to speed up in the future.

Marshall Square in Evans, along with the planned Mullins Crossing 2.. They'll start to come around as the economy continues to improve in Augusta.

tckr1983
360
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tckr1983 05/18/10 - 11:56 am
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Corgs, Like i've said... I

Corgs,

Like i've said... I have yet to see you say anything positive about Augusta. Do some research. Your comment makes you look ignorant. Troll on!!!

countyman
20120
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countyman 05/18/10 - 11:59 am
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Corgimom why don't you ask

Corgimom why don't you ask Forbes, Businessweek, and MSNBC about Augusta's economy and housing market.

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 05/18/10 - 12:34 pm
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I'd be happy if that

I'd be happy if that riverwatch shopping center never materialized. Thats the view we want from the other side of the canal? loading docks, parking lots, dumpsters? wish they'd throw that thing downtown in one of the dozens of vacant former department stores

countyman
20120
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countyman 05/18/10 - 01:23 pm
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Bass pro downtown??? I don't

Bass pro downtown??? I don't want too many chains coming downtown. A sleek Publix and Target in two historic buildings would be enough for me.

sojourner
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sojourner 05/18/10 - 01:49 pm
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countyman: Whoops...Gordon

countyman: Whoops...Gordon Hwy and I-520. But you knew that's what I meant. Mullins Crossing 2, if you read thoroughly, is no longer in the plans. Rezoning from commercial to residential won't make a shopping center later on. Development, yes, but not commercial as you inferred. There will NEVER be a nice shopping area downtown...Publix, Target or otherwise. Many cities have done this with great success, but the crime and homeless presence downtown will never come down to a level that would be conducive for such development.

floridasun
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floridasun 05/18/10 - 02:58 pm
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I agree, I hope the

I agree, I hope the Riverwatch Shopping Center is never built. Augusta and Columbia County are already the captial of cut and clear strip development. Every major road is an overbuilt eyesore...Washington Rd, Wrightsboro Rd, Gordon Highway, Peach Orchard Rd, Deans Bridge Rd.
Maybe plant some trees along these roads and it might make them look better. But its still a text book case of poor planning. Does Augusta has a planning departnemt or is the planning by Blanchard & Calhoun

countyman
20120
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countyman 05/18/10 - 03:07 pm
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Do you include Wheeler rd,

Do you include Wheeler rd, Walton Way, etc...

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 05/18/10 - 03:11 pm
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Good comment, FloridaSun.

Good comment, FloridaSun. The same idea applies to the Mullins Crossing proposal in the above article. Mullins went to a lot of trouble to change zoning to Commercial, now he wants to change it to residential. The actual surroundings clearly support commercial (or perhaps light industrial) far better than R-1 zoning. Whatever happened to the "master plan" with clearly-delineated zones?

corgimom
32429
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corgimom 05/18/10 - 07:37 pm
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I don't have to ask anybody

I don't have to ask anybody about the Augusta economy.

My ex-husband just sold our former house in North Augusta. It took him over 2 years, he had to lower the price 6 times, and sold it for far less than it was worth just 3 years ago. This is a nice house, in a very nice neighborhood, the house was in great shape, and with extensive upgrades.

If anybody thinks that's the sign of a good economy, then they have rocks in their head.

countyman
20120
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countyman 05/18/10 - 08:33 pm
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A metro of 550k with over 6

A metro of 550k with over 6 counties Richmond, Aiken, Columbia, Burke, and Edgefield. The housing market comes down to one house in North Augusta????

The statement makes no sense at all...

jb1234
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jb1234 05/18/10 - 09:00 pm
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Corgi, maybe your house was

Corgi, maybe your house was just ugly? Sorry, just brainstorming on why it was on the market for so long...

tckr1983
360
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tckr1983 05/18/10 - 09:26 pm
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Corgi, I'm sorry if you had

Corgi,

I'm sorry if you had a hard time selling your house but... Augusta's housing economy is one of the best in the nation. It will also be one of the fastest recovering markets in the nation... that's what happens with such a strong Medical district, two nuclear power plants, a sizeable portion of government jobs and also having Ft. Gordon pumping over a billion dollars into the local economy. With the new national NSA compound out there it will continue to increase.

Consider yourself lucky to sell it, anywhere else and you could very easily still be making monthly mortgage payments on it...

keyjamar1
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keyjamar1 05/19/10 - 12:18 am
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Claude Key (lucky) is me..if

Claude Key (lucky) is me..if you have any questions or concerns about a vehicle feel free to come to carmax to browse our inventory

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 05/19/10 - 02:58 am
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One of the strongest housing

One of the strongest housing markets in the nation? Are you serious? True it never had a crash like some of the really overpriced markets.. because prices never got inflated.. Augusta has some of the cheapest housing in the country. But you try selling a home in this market and just try to make any money or even break even.

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