The effort to pump life back into the defunct Regency Mall has a new advocate.
Athens businessman Jewett Tucker has purchased the 138,000-square-foot Montgomery Ward store and also said he is under contract to buy the former JB White store.
Mr. Tucker went before the Augusta Commission on Tuesday to let them know he has purchased the empty buildings and entered into a joint venture agreement with Haywood Whichard, who has owned the rest of the mall property since 1997.
Now that ownership of the entire 803,355 square feet of mostly vacant retail space has been consolidated between the two men's companies, Mr. Tucker said, county officials should consider leasing space there for local government offices.
"There's been discussion about this for quite some time apparently," he said. "I think before there have been some concerns about different ownerships, but that is not the problem as of today."
When Montgomery Ward closed in March last year, and the remaining small retail stores left the struggling mall, several ideas were tossed around about what to do with the 75 acres of abandoned development at the intersection of Gordon Highway and Deans Bridge Road.
Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek said Tuesday the city should consolidate county offices, such as a new traffic engineering center and public works, at the location.
Right now, the Richmond-County Marshal's Department is the only tenant inside the mall.
"It would be a chance for us ... to resolve an issue that has been kicked around for years," he said. "That is, the renovation of this building (and) the relocation and construction of many of our satellite facilities in one area."
Mr. Tucker said the government offices could be complimented with retail stores, adding that he has talked with several potential anchor tenants.
"We have a couple of big tenants that are interested in locating there, and over the next 60 to 90 days I'm sure we'll have some confirmation contracts to that affect," he said. "You'll never have another mall there obviously, it has to be a mixed-use (development)," he said.
A commission subcommittee is expected to discuss the issue and deliver a recommendation to the full board.
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or email@example.com.