Originally created 12/30/03

Cobern building gets new life



A local businessman has purchased the Cobern Furniture building, saying a resurgent downtown offers many options for one of Broad Street's biggest vacant properties.

Tommy Moxley, the owner of Appliance Land on Washington Road, bought the three-story building on the corner of Broad and 11th streets Dec. 15 from the family of the late owner, Michael Cohen.

The furniture store closed three years ago.

Mr. Moxley isn't sure what he'll do with 30,000 square feet - roughly half a football field - of real estate, but he says the ground floor is well-suited for an upscale restaurant and the upper levels are better for office space.

He has no plans to sell appliances or expand his existing business.

"You won't find workmanship like this anywhere else," said Mr. Moxley, who wrapped up the deal in just three weeks. "We got the Golf and Gardens around the corner and so much activity going on downtown. There's so much we can do with this building."

Mr. Moxley declined to say how much he paid for the building, and his transaction had not yet been filed with the county. County records show the property was valued at $385,300 when ownership was transferred within the Cohen family three years ago.

"Tommy Moxley is a visionary who saw an opportunity and seized on it," said Joe Hamilton, a partner at Penix-Hamilton Commercial Real Estate Services, which brokered the deal. "He sees the potential for downtown and recognizes that it's coming back rapidly."

A flurry of activity in the past year, ranging from the construction of the Augusta Common to the opening of artsy shops along Eighth Street, has breathed some fresh air into a gasping downtown.

The new board of education building on Broad Street that's set to open in February is another sign of revival, bringing about 200 more people downtown each day to work, eat and shop.

Mr. Moxley expects to have the ground level refurbished by the end of January, and says he'll wait to customize the upper two levels according to what future tenants want.

The sale of the building comes about three years after Robert Bee closed Cobern. Mr. Bee was a former store manager who bought the furniture business in the 1980s from Mr. Cohen, who kept ownership of the building.

Mr. Cohen started his furniture business in 1950 and over the course of two decades moved to bigger locations on a bustling Broad Street. In 1979 he bought the building at 1051 Broad St. from Rhodes Furniture, which moved to its current location on Wrightsboro Road.

Reach Matthew Mogul at (706) 823-3352 or matthew.mogul@augustachronicle.com.