Originally created 07/14/97

Firm considering hotel, conference center in North Augusta



NORTH AUGUSTA - The fairways are coming up green on the new North Augusta golf course, Riverside Drive is expected to get under way anytime now, and an Atlanta firm is assessing the economic feasibility of building a hotel and conference center on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.

Just down the river a bit, RiverNorth subdivision is beginning to take shape with one house finished, and the model dream home is already in the framing stage.

What North Augusta Administrator Charles Martin calls the "first five-year window" has opened, perhaps more than just a crack.

The long-awaited North Augusta golf course is on schedule for a late fall opening, said developer William Collins.

"As of last week, five of the fairways had been planted," Mr. Collins said. "The greens will be seeded with bent grass and we'll be open for play in late fall."

In addition, Mr. Collins said he is holding a parcel of land in reserve for a hotel and conference center.

"I cannot tell you exactly how long the land will be kept in reserve but I have promised to hold it. They (North Augusta officials) have been very cooperative with me and I'm happy to work with them, " he said.

A prospective developer for the hotel/conference center has already been in touch with city officials. Before the hotel chain commits to the project, however, the company has requested a market study by an independent agency. The North Augusta City Council passed a resolution at its regular meeting last week, authorizing Atlantic Hospitality Advisors to conduct that analysis.

"It's important that we start off with a success and this is a way to ensure that," Mayor Lark Jones said.

According to the Riverfront Redevelopment Master Plan, the hotel will be located on the river just in front of the 15th hole. If the market study shows a need for additional hotel space in the area, the hotel/conference center will be constructed, city officials say.

In addition, "things are moving along at RiverNorth," said developer Carl Sanders Jr. "The opening of the golf course will really help too."

A dream home is slated for completion in September, he said.

"We are hoping to have a showing period in mid-October and are planning to hold preview parties as fund-raisers for the Children's Hospital," Mr. Sanders said.

He said Phase I includes 40 lots, both on the river and in the interior of the subdivision. So far, he said four riverfront lots and one interior lot have been sold.

In order to afford public access to the golf course and hoped-for hotel, a new roadway called Riverside Boulevard has been proposed. The new road would provide public access from Buena Vista Avenue to the riverfront. It would be constructed by upgrading Ponce DeLeon Avenue and Detour Road.

"The city is behind schedule on construction of the road because we have to wait for approval from the South Carolina Department of Transportation," said Tony Criscitiello, planning director for North Augusta.

That should come sometime this month, he said. Cost of the road will be borne by the city. Total time for construction, including letting of bids, should be a little over seven months, depending on the weather.