Plans for The Greens on Washington unclear

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An Augusta National Golf Club member has bought a Washington Road apartment complex across from the club, and tenants are not being allowed to renew leases.

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The Greens on Washington apartment complex was purchased in February by Robert L. Johnston, an Augusta National Golf Club member, as an investment.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
The Greens on Washington apartment complex was purchased in February by Robert L. Johnston, an Augusta National Golf Club member, as an investment.

Steve Crawford
Columbia County News Times Publisher
Twitter: @scrawfordccnt
E-mail | 706-868-1222

Robert L. Johnston, who bought The Greens on Washington in February, said the purchase has nothing to do with the club’s property acquisitions around Washington and Berckmans roads, but he confirmed that leases were not being renewed and tenants were moving out. The Atlanta businessman said he was still evaluating what to do with The Greens.

Nicole Hawkins said she had to move out June 30 because the apartment management refused to renew her lease. She lived at the apartments for two years.

“(The managers) told me that the National bought it and everybody was going to move out,” Hawkins said.

The Greens’ on-site managers refused to answer questions about the situation and told reporters they were not allowed on the property to interview tenants.

Johnston and his partners formed The Greens on Washington Road Ventures LLC on Dec. 14 and purchased the property for $8.3 million on Feb. 28 from the Mayo Group of Boston.

Johnston said The Greens has deteriorated over the years to the point where a major investment is needed. He said he bought the property because there was substantial value in the land and the location.

“The owners didn’t invest in it like it could have been done,” he said. “It was at 48 percent occupancy when we bought it.”

That might have something to do with the number of tenants being asked to move out. According to Richmond County marshal’s records, more than 190 dispossess notices were served on tenants at the Greens in 2011, about 80 more than the previous year. More than 50 notices were served in the first two months of this year, before the property was sold.

Representatives of the Mayo Group did not return a call seeking comment on the sale of the property or the evictions.

Johnston’s company, First Communities, manages The Greens and two other nearby apartment complexes, Madi­son on the Green on River Ridge Drive and Century Glen apartments on Alexander Drive.

Johnston is business partners with Augusta Na­tional Chairman Billy Payne through their real estate investment company Centennial Holding Company, described as a “sister company” to First Communities on the company Web site.

Johnston said The Greens had no connection to Centennial Holding and that he had not discussed the property with Payne.

Over the past decade, Augusta National has bought nearby properties through holding companies.

Some of these properties along Berckmans Road have become grassy parking areas and others, such as the former Big Tree shopping center next to The Greens, have become administrative buildings and staging areas for Masters Tournament preparations.

Johnston dismissed rumors about Augusta National’s involvement, saying he “couldn’t imagine” a situation in which the club would control the property. He said his goal is to make money on his investment.

How he’ll do that he would not say. Johnston said he’s not sure whether it is best to reinvest in the buildings or just level them and start over. In any case, he said he’ll have a plan in place by spring.

“Maybe a bomb would be best,” Johnston said. “Do you put in thousands per unit and try to get a high rent, or less and try to get a (midrange) rent? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

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triscuit 07/09/12 - 04:39 pm
Those businesses you

Those businesses you mentioned expanded, because by and large the people of Vineland, National Hills and homes in Greenbrier/Brynwood support them. There are good folks I am sure living in those complexes, but by and large, they are full of thugs. I live near there, I know what those two complexes have done to surrounding areas in the last 10 years. As far as the condos that were supposed to have been built in the National Hills shopping center, that would not have increased surrounding home prices there anymore than building those huge hospitality houses did. That is one big argument the owners of those monstrosities have..."we will improve your property values." Didn't happen and I think half of them are broke now.

omnomnom 07/09/12 - 04:51 pm
the shopping center

the shopping center immediately adjacent to the Greens on Washington is Big Tree, countyman. I dont see any businesses expanding there. Of course there is the Family Dollar that opened across the street. Why don't you hawk about their openings? Or the large amount of We Buy Gold stores? Those are obviously a sign of a THRIVING local economy. Not to mention the plasma donor center on Wrightsboro Road. Why wasn't Deke at that ribbon cutting? Look, you're going to say I'm a debbie downer. I see myself as a pragmatist.

Before you mention... CostCO,& the TEE Center...are the result of CENTRAL PLANNING. Anathema to the free market. Thats why I pick at 'em so much.

countyman 07/09/12 - 05:07 pm
I don't think anybody is

I don't think anybody is denying some of the residents caused problems, but they were mostly property crimes... The Greens on Washington wasn't really bad or good... The rents were between $500 and a little over $700....

It's not a valid comparison between hospitality houses(used once a year) versus condos(people living in them for 52 weeks of the year)....

Plus the condo project at National Hills included retail too... There's noway the new condos/retail wouldn't have raise the surrounding property values... It's a reason why banks are being tight in terms of lending for new condos compared to apartments...

Omnomnom... The Augusta National already purchased the Big Tree shopping center.. No businesses are expanding there due to the Augusta National kicking out Food Lion, etc was their leased was up... I don't bring up things like Family Dollar or We Buy Gold because they're not anything special... The two plants over $100 million under construction in South Augusta, and one of them purchasing an additonal 33 acres is the type of news I prefer to share with the public... Why don't you ever say anything positive about Augusta??

omnomnom 07/09/12 - 05:15 pm
OK. How's "I like Arts In The

OK. How's "I like Arts In The Heart" do ya?

triscuit 07/09/12 - 11:03 pm
just "property crimes?

wow, countyman...just a property crime? I guess when you have flat screen TV's, laptops, guns, bikes and jewelry stolen from yourself and neighbors from folks in these areas (they have caught many and they lived there),...I guess these types of crimes are okay as long as someone is not murdered?

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