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Project Jackson: Much work ahead for proposed Augusta GreenJackets stadium

Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 8:50 PM
Last updated Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 5:24 PM
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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story did not accurately quote GreenJackets president and owner Jeff Eiseman.

Plans for Project Jackson include a hotel, baseball stadium, and retail and residential space along the Savannah River.  FILE
FILE
Plans for Project Jackson include a hotel, baseball stadium, and retail and residential space along the Savannah River.

Project Jackson is far from a done deal.

Before a shovel turns the earth to build the development, with the centerpiece being a North Augusta baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets, several more rounds of city approval and months of design and planning must align.

The project jumped a major hurdle Tuesday when the Aiken County Council voted 6-3 to approve a Tax Increment Financing district, but North Augusta officials say there are many steps ahead casting doubt on the goal of opening the new park for the first day of the 2015 baseball season.

Next up, an ordinance to create the special financing district goes before the North Augusta City Council for three required readings plus a public hearing. The ordinance has received approval from the Aiken County school board.

North Augusta Adminis­tra­tor Todd Glover said the earliest the first of three readings will happen is Oct. 21, with a public hearing likely happening that night. The three readings could be complete by Nov. 18.

Last December, city leaders and Atlanta-based development group Greenstone Pro­per­ties revealed plans for the public-private development, which also included a 200-room resort-style hotel and conference center, restaurants, townhomes, apartments and retail and office space.

The proposal has the new park overlooking the Savan­nah River near the 13th Street bridge. It’s next door to Hammond’s Ferry, the first phase of the city’s master plan for the riverside area.

The public investment is $43 million of the $144 million project, Glover said.

The TIF district, which generates tax revenue on the incremental difference between rising property values and past values for Aiken County, would last 30 years upon issuance of bonds.

City councilman Fletcher Dickert said there’s support for the TIF district, which needs four votes from the seven-member council, but he expects lengthy negotiations during the design process. A spring 2015 opening is unrealistic, he said.

Once the plan is complete, three more readings and another public hearing are needed to issue bonds.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a year to come back to city council,” Dickert said. “Everybody wants to take time to make sure the $100 million private investment is there.”

GreenJackets president and owner Jeff Eiseman said the opening has been set back by the lengthy political process. While he’s still “bullishly optimistic” that the team can start the 2015 season in the new stadium, he doesn’t want to rush the remaining work.

“We’ve got to do what’s best for the project longterm,” Eiseman said.

Construction should take about a year, he said.

Interim Planning Director Scott Sterling didn’t rule out an early 2015 completion but said it’s a large scale project and that the plans will be “well-scrutinized.”

The planning department has several steps of its own to take if the TIF district is approved.

First, a 2002 ordinance that assembled 200 acres to create a planned development at Hammond’s Ferry would need to be amended, Sterling said. The original ordinance, which has already been amended several times, does not include uses such as a baseball stadium.

Significant work must also be done to divide the property into lots and lay out utilities and roads. Preliminary work must be approved by the planning commission and the final plans approved by administrators. Sterling said the work, which involves engineers and architects, takes months.

Just how much time will be needed to finish the project is uncertain, but city leaders said they are willing to take time to make sure it’s done correctly.

Significant discussions and negotiations are needed with developers to ensure the pledged private investment is realized, Glover said. The biggest challenge will be convincing the city council that contracts clearly indicate who is responsible for each component of the public-private partnership, he said.

TIMELINE

When Project Jackson was revealed last December, leaders set out to open a new baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets’ 2015 season. If the North Augusta City Council approves the Tax Increment Financing district, those involved with the project say months of work is still to come. Although the exact time needed to complete work is uncertain, here’s an estimated timeline, compiled after interviews with City Administrator Todd Glover and Interim Planning Director Scott Sterling:

MID-OCTOBER: Public hearing and first reading of the ordinance before North Augusta City Council

MID-NOVEMBER: Final reading and vote

LATE 2013: Several months of design, engineering, planning and contract negotiations begin

EARLY TO MID-2014: Final plan has three readings and public hearing before city council

APRIL 2015: Proposed opening

Comments (6) Add comment
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Gage Creed
15812
Points
Gage Creed 09/22/13 - 01:27 am
3
0
BOHICA....

BOHICA....

etlinks
19310
Points
etlinks 09/22/13 - 07:50 am
6
0
Public hearing ?

North Augusta Adminis­tra­tor Todd Glover said the earliest the first of three readings will happen is Oct. 21, with a public hearing likely happening that night. The three readings could be complete by Nov. 18. Public hearing, what for the public has no bearing on this project. The citizens of Aiken Co have been told to shutup and open your wallets.

waldero
29
Points
waldero 09/22/13 - 10:41 am
4
0
While he’s still “foolishly

While he’s still “foolishly optimistic” - the owner of the private investors said this ? (above in the article) Foolish is the word; at least he's being up-front about it.

get me outta here percy.

Little Lamb
43987
Points
Little Lamb 09/22/13 - 12:39 pm
5
0
Promises

Mayor Lark Jones made a bunch of promises about this project. The ink is not even dry and he's reneging on the first one. There will be more failed promises to come, especially the ones about about private investment and the ever-popular “economic impact.”

soapy_725
43555
Points
soapy_725 09/22/13 - 05:48 pm
0
0
The Ben Dover "Gotcha Circus" makes permanent home in N.A.
Unpublished

The Ben Dover "Gotcha Circus" makes permanent home in N.A.

soapy_725
43555
Points
soapy_725 09/22/13 - 05:49 pm
0
0
The only people buying swamp land in N.A. are taxpayers. LOL
Unpublished

The only people buying swamp land in N.A. are taxpayers. LOL

soapy_725
43555
Points
soapy_725 09/22/13 - 05:50 pm
0
0
Good endeavors die with government involvement.
Unpublished

Good endeavors die with government involvement.

Gage Creed
15812
Points
Gage Creed 09/22/13 - 07:18 pm
1
0
Can I get an "opportunity

Can I get an "opportunity zone"? Say it loud brothers and sisters....

dabigmrfish
16
Points
dabigmrfish 09/23/13 - 03:56 pm
1
0
Schools

Why can't this money go towards school improvements. Why are more people in North Augusta not screaming, yelling and putting a stop to this madness. Children at the schools have to wolf down lunch if they don't run out of food. The school system needs the money not a baseball stadium that will also ruin Brick Yard Pond Park.

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