Plans for The Greens on Washington unclear

 

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.

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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