Originally created 06/29/02

Center attracts 2 more tenants



Owners of Walton's Corner announced Friday the addition of two tenants to the 54,000-square-foot shopping center in West Augusta.

BellSouth and Care South, a home health care management business, will move offices into the center on Walton Way Extension.

Except for a few small shops and restaurants, most of the strip has been vacant since a Winn-Dixie supermarket and Eckerd drug store left a few years ago.

Vic Mills, the president of Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial Corp. and managing partner of Walton Augusta Partners, which owns the facility, said the additions will fill the 40,000 square feet of unoccupied space and shuffle 200 employees to the center.

The new tenants are expected to move in August or September once a $5 million renovation is finished.

Demolition on the center's facade is scheduled to start next week, and Mr. Mills said work will be done to convert the abandoned space into offices, including the installation of fiber-optic cable for BellSouth.

Rick Griffin, Care South's chief executive officer, said the company is moving from its 14,000-square-foot location near Walton's Corner at the Augusta Corporate Center.

"The demands of our business have caused us to be flexible and have additional space," Mr. Griffin said. "This gives us the potential to expand even further than we are now in terms of number of employees, and we see that happening in the very near future."

Care South plans to occupy 22,000 square feet of space, and company officials intend to transfer its corporate headquarters, currently located in Macon, to the new office.

BellSouth will lease 17,000 square feet to move its network operations group from the company's downtown office.

The phone company needs the extra space to renovate its existing office, where it is expanding its call center operations.

"Because of that expansion, we need to make room," said Stan Shepherd, BellSouth's Augusta district manager. "We also feel very fortunate to be able to take existing vacant retail space and make good use of that because we know that is also another issue in the Augusta area."

Mr. Mills said that when his group acquired the shopping center, it had become tired and dated in the years since its construction in 1984.

Most of the new retail, including the Winn-Dixie at Walton's Corner, in the burgeoning West Augusta corridor had moved around the corner to be closer to the Augusta Exchange.

"We came up with a concept that we would change the direction of the facility from totally retail, which is being very well served now already, to a mixed-use development," Mr. Mills said.

Augusta Mayor Bob Young said the development of professional offices next to stores was one solution to the city's ongoing push to recycle vacant retail spaces.

"You've got to think outside of the box these days," he said. "By bringing mixed use to this strip here and creating jobs, we are bringing back a neighborhood."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.