Originally created 11/17/00

Local company buys First Union building



A local real estate investment company Thursday finalized its purchase of the First Union building in downtown Augusta.

The company, led by Augusta businessmen William S. Morris III and Paul S. Simon, had been under contract to purchase the 17-story office tower since the summer.

Mr. Simon declined to disclose financial terms of the deal. Public information on the sale was not immediately available Thursday.

The new owners said they plan to keep operating the 30-year-old landmark as leasable office space, adding that First Union bank and other tenants will be allowed to remain in place.

Blanchard & Calhoun Real Estate will continue managing the property.

"We will continue to operate it as a first-class office building," Mr. Simon said, adding that approximately $2 million will be spent renovating the property.

Mr. Morris, chairman and chief executive officer of Morris Communications Corp., parent company of The Augusta Chronicle, is CEO of Azalea Development Corp., which purchased the First Union building through a specially formed venture called Richmond Enterprises LLC.

Mr. Simon, Azalea Development Corp.'s chief financial officer, is president of Augusta Riverfront Limited Partnership, the Azalea subsidiary that developed Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta and the Augusta Riverfront Center office building. It is currently building the Country Suites Augusta Riverwalk Hotel next to the Radisson.

First Union's original asking price for the building was $7 million. The building, including its 10,000-square-foot annex and 232-car parking garage, is assessed for tax purposes at $6.1 million.

The building is about two-thirds occupied. Aside from First Union Corp., major tenants include the Kilpatrick Stockton law firm and the members-only Pinnacle Club.

Although some Morris Communications operations likely will move into the building's vacant space within several months, "the building will continue to be called the First Union building," Mr. Simon said.

First Union had tried to unload the building for months, citing property management costs and the need to divest noncrucial real estate holdings.

First Union has owned the building since 1986, when the Charlotte-based regional bank acquired Augusta's Georgia Railroad Bank & Trust Co.

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

Changing hands

FIRST UNION BUILDING

Address: 699 Broad St.

Owner: Richmond Enterprises LLC

Manager: Blanchard & Calhoun Real Estate

Built: 1970

Floors: 17

Occupancy rate: Approximately 72 percent

Average lease: $13-$14 per square foot