Originally created 05/18/98

New road opens land for development



Land in Columbia County on Belair Road near Interstate 20 is expected to become even more desirable when a 3.5-mile stretch of road connecting Ft. Gordon to Belair Road is completed.

"I think it is probably the greatest (tract) of land left to be developed," said John Capes, president of VIP Realty, a commercial real estate development company. "It has the highest potential because of the convergence of the Bobby Jones, Belair Road and Interstate 20 exchanges."

The Jimmie Dyess Parkway, named after a dead World War II veteran from Columbia County who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, is expected to be completed by December, said Rusty Merritt, Georgia Department of Transportation area engineer. The four-lane road will connect Belair Road at Wrightsboro Road at the county line to Gordon Highway around Fort Gordon's Gate 1 entrance.

The new parkway has already boosted land prices around I-20 and Belair Road, said J. Willingham of J. Willingham Co., a commercial real estate company.

"At I-20 and Belair Road, some fantastic prices are coming there. It's always been a major intersection, but now with the road extension, you are planning on a 10 to 15 percent increase in traffic count. That's a good area," Mr. Willingham said.

Tony Atkins of Atkins & Associates Realty Co. said he sees commercial activity increasing in the area from Wrightsboro Road to I-20, where commercial land prices now range from $100,000 to $150,000 an acre.

A full-service restaurant -- one that serves alcohol -- and a hotel are looking to locate near Belair Road and I-20, said Bob Reich, Chamber of Commerce executive director. And at the beginning of the year, Best Western and Wingate Inn opened at the interchange.

"It really opens up that whole area. There's great potential along that road, especially when you get over to the Gordon Highway. That opens up that area quite a bit to commerce, not only commercial but potentially manufacturing as well," Mr. Reich said.

Industrial development at a 1,900-acre tract near Fort Gordon, while not in Columbia County, could create jobs, said Dale Bridges of Coastal Piedmont Properties, who is marketing the land with another real estate firm.

The large tract would be a natural for high-tech, light-industrial development, said Kevin Shea, Metro-Augusta Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of economic development.

Real estate and county officials agree commercial land south of Interstate 20 will be ripe for development once the road project is completed.

"It is the last major land tract that is close to the Belair Road, I-20 infrastructure. You need some apartments, you need some industrial sites, commercial sites, housing sites, possibly another golf course -- any number of things could happen out there with that much land," Mr. Capes said.