Risk vs. reward

Development proposal for mills needs firm tenant

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No developer would invest in a shopping center without a firm commitment from an anchor tenant. Too much risk, too little chance for reward.

Commonsense economics should also apply to developments involving taxpayers’ money. There must be assurances that the citizenry will benefit from the use of their funds.

Right now, there are no assurances that renovating the historic King and Sibley textile mills near downtown Augusta, through $12 million in special-purpose local options sales tax funds, would be money well-spent.

The renovation plan, an initiative of the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project, initially was pitched as education and residential space to accommodate the merger of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University.

Problem is, the merged institution – Georgia Regents University – hasn’t committed to occupying the estimated 1 million square feet of industrial space in the city’s Harrisburg section. In fact, a study backed by GRU’s overseers, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, ranked the mill-campus proposal (which cost $300,000 to develop) as the least favorable of three options available.

Collaboration project Executive Director Matt Kwatinetz wants to advance the $12 million proposal by tagging it to the upcoming SPLOST
referendum – with or without GRU.

“We could just wait for some developer maybe eventually” to come along, he said at a SPLOST presentation earlier this week.

Sorry, that’s just not good enough.

Redeveloping the old mills clearly is a worthwhile initiative. Businessman Clay Boardman, who used his own money to redevelop the historic Enterprise Mill complex more than a decade ago, proved that stately buildings can live new lives as profitable, mixed-use developments.

The same potential exists for King and Sibley, which share 2,000 acres of greenspace and an ideal location along the historic Augusta Canal that ties Harrisburg redevelopment efforts to the city’s resurgent central business district.

And anyone who thinks an old industrial building can’t be turned into a classroom should see the 150-year-old former cotton and wool factory that has been converted into the GRU/University of Georgia Medical Partnership Building just a block from the main Athens campus.

If the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project could be made a reality with optimism alone, taxpayers gladly would write the check.

But in the real world, where commonsense economics apply, a $12 million investment to redevelop 130-year-old buildings without a confirmed tenant is too much risk for too little reward.

Comments (12) Add comment
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Riverman1
81439
Points
Riverman1 02/28/14 - 06:11 am
8
3
Stop Making Fun of Deke and Matt

Will y’all stop making fun of Deke giving his pal, Matt Kwatinetz, millions to use as he wants? When no one complained about the jazz café they want to open with county money, they figured keep pushing the envelope. They should go back to riding a tandem bike around town while they quote poetry to each other.

deestafford
25382
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deestafford 02/28/14 - 10:11 am
3
3
The editorial is right to advocate not spending...

The editorial is right to advocate not spending any taxpayer money on this great piece of property by betting on the "come"...sort of like giving Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for what he was going to do.

It is not a location that will draw enough people to it to make it profitable as a retail location. People will just not travel to that section of town to support a retail set up. However, it does have potential and when someone in the private sector is innovative enough to find the profit making solution it will be done.

deestafford
25382
Points
deestafford 02/28/14 - 10:11 am
1
3
The editorial is right to advocate not spending...

The editorial is right to advocate not spending any taxpayer money on this great piece of property by betting on the "come"...sort of like giving Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for what he was going to do.

It is not a location that will draw enough people to it to make it profitable as a retail location. People will just not travel to that section of town to support a retail set up. However, it does have potential and when someone in the private sector is innovative enough to find the profit making solution it will be done.

countyman
19545
Points
countyman 02/28/14 - 01:26 pm
1
6
Redeveloping the mills is a great idea..

The 25 acre commercial development is coming near the Mills Campus.. The Mills are next to the Kroc Center which already brings thousands of people into Harrisburg..

Pops
7543
Points
Pops 02/28/14 - 09:21 pm
4
2
I love this one......

"The Mills are next to the Kroc Center which already brings thousands of people into Harrisburg....."

Unfortunately too many of those thousands of people are going there to buy meth......bank that.....Mr. Pie In The Sky

Butterman
3678
Points
Butterman 02/28/14 - 09:23 pm
3
1
No one is arguing that
Unpublished

No one is arguing that renovating the mills would not be a positive thing BUT you just don't throw $12 million dollars at something without firm commitments from tenants. That is foolish. No private developer would ever do such a thing.

nocnoc
40437
Points
nocnoc 02/28/14 - 10:29 pm
2
1
What can I say

But it looks like DOWNTOWN Needs some TAXPAYER money to toss around to some friends.

The Hotel, convention center, and the Parking Deck wasn't enough.
Maybe they were counting on that Stadium for some $$$$?

corgimom
30081
Points
corgimom 02/28/14 - 11:16 pm
0
1
Countyman, how do you know

Countyman, how do you know that the Kroc Center brings thousands of people into Harrisburg?

Because I'm thinking that if that were true, there would be tremendous traffic congestion in that area.

corgimom
30081
Points
corgimom 02/28/14 - 11:21 pm
1
1
Countyman said that the Kroc

Countyman said that the Kroc Center would revitalize Harrisburg.

Can anybody comment on that?

Brad Owens
4178
Points
Brad Owens 03/01/14 - 10:08 pm
0
0
All I can say is...

This was not the ACES position when the TEE Center was being built. No, in fact the lack of solid bookings was not a deterrent at all. What has changed now?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 03/01/14 - 11:46 pm
0
0
As an approach to compromise,

As an approach to compromise, would it be fine to see the ratios of allocation before scrapping the concept of collaboration. Asking to be told your future is a tall order. But if the proposals are submitted, we all have a great opportunity to respond in a genuine way. I would be cautious, lack of information from the collaborators indicates self-centric goals. The proposals should be comprehensive and delivered via the media (facepalm).

GnipGnop
11753
Points
GnipGnop 03/02/14 - 04:09 am
0
0
I will tell you what changed Brad

There are no Billy bucks to be made. It all depends on whether you're buying or selling.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 03/02/14 - 10:29 am
0
0
If no kickbacks then we

If no kickbacks then we should all agree that in principle, the CBD should receive attention with the money. And the mill restoration, also could be a worthwhile endeavor. If not, I'm confident the puppet masters can conjure up another scheme with less vision that hides the money allocation better. Just saying, let pieces of the puzzle scatter before trying to see a full image. Then cast a vote. I always think in the back of my mind how some things that I'm diametrically opposed to sometimes are really in line with my own perspective. Well the results are usually what I agree with.

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