Redevelopment agency approves property purchases for Laney-Walker/Bethlehem revitalization

The panel charged with oversight of the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem neighborhood revitalization project approved buying two properties for $17,000 more than the assessed value at a Wednesday called meeting of the Urban Redevelopment Agency.

The properties – 1474 Wrightsboro Road and 1430 McCauley St. – were crucial to major development plans in the area, said Jesse Wiles, the president of APD Urban Planning and Management, the city’s project manager for the initiative.

The two properties, assessed for tax purposes at $23,000, were purchased from a single owner for $40,000.

The city has acquired hundreds of dilapidated properties in the two neighborhoods using the Augusta Georgia Land Bank Authority. The land bank helps find owners, extinguish back taxes and put properties back into productive use.

“We haven’t had many instances like this,” Wiles said. “Of the $2 million worth of property that we’ve been able to acquire, I’d say 95 percent of those properties have been acquired at appraised value.”

Finding the property owner, who lives in Washington, D.C., and negotiating the purchase involved a two-year process, Wiles said. The final price was negotiated down from a $50,000 offer from the seller.

The McCauley Street property fronts a targeted development area called Foundry Place, where the city’s Housing and Community Development Department – the entity carrying out the project – plans to build commercial and housing units.

“We have no other option. We would have to abandon that project without acquiring that parcel,” Wiles said.

The Wrightsboro Road parcel was one of three on the south side of the street within the development area not under the land bank’s control.

Also at the meeting, Assistant Director of Housing and Community Development Hawthorne Welcher updated the panel on redevelopment efforts.

The Foundry Place development near the intersection of R.A. Dent Boulevard and Wrightsboro Road could become student housing, Welcher said. The city has begun discussions with Georgia Health Sciences and Augusta State universities and with Paine College.

Additionally, Welcher said, the Famous Door Supper Club on Laney-Walker Boulevard will be demolished, starting Oct. 15.

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