Originally created 10/10/00

Company will move to Lamar



Area businessman Bettis Rainsford, who spent 10 years and $5 million transforming the historic Lamar Building into a high-tech office building, signed a high-tech tenant this week.

Augusta-based information technology company Computerland Advanced Technology Group will lease the 11th floor, with its 6,348 square feet, moving from its present downtown location sometime in the next 60 to 90 days.

"They are going to be a showcase tenant for us," Mr. Rainsford said.

The computer networking company currently is housed in a 4,500-square-foot building at 824 Reynolds St., company vice president Graham Ellison said. That property will be demolished in January to make way for the Augusta Commons project, a greenbelt stretching from the riverfront to Broad Street.

"We had outgrown it anyway," Mr. Ellison said. "We had been looking (for new office space) for the last year and a half."

Terms of the lease were not disclosed.

Mr. Rainsford's company, Prime Commercial Realty, has stepped up its marketing of the building during the past two years, trying to turn it into a destination for relocating businesses.

In its heyday, the building was home to doctors, dentists, lawyers and architects. Prime Commercial Realty would not disclose the building's vacancy rate.

Early next year, Mr. Rainsford plans,construction will begin on a multilevel parking deck behind the Lamar Building, which will accommodate the additional tenants that he hopes will locate in the renovated 85-year-old Broad Street landmark.

The multilevel deck, which he plans to finance himself, also would be used as parking for his nearby Marion Building, a mostly vacant midrise that he plans to develop into upscale condominiums.

"It's a development that will bring in the sort of people into downtown that will accelerate the trend in making the downtown area a more attractive place to live," he said of the Marion Building project.

Prior efforts to develop the deck as public parking using city money failed. Mr. Rainsford said the Marion Building's upper nine floors would be residential and its ground floor would remain retail.

Construction on the 17-story, 106,000-square-foot Lamar Building began in 1913. The building is sometimes called the Southern Finance Building, a reference to the now-defunct Southern Finance Corp., which owned the landmark from the 1920s to the '80s.

In 1974, the building was topped with a glass and concrete penthouse designed by famed architect I.M. Pei.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or at bized@augustachronicle.com.