Originally created 02/02/05

Augusta company purchases Columbia hotel



An Augusta real estate investment firm has acquired a full-service hotel in Columbia with plans of renovating the former Sheraton property into a Radisson.

Augusta Riverfront Limited Partnership announced Tuesday it purchased the 237-room Columbiana Hotel and Conference Center, formerly the Sheraton Columbia, from a division of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The hotel's management will report to Darryl Leech, the general manager of the partnership's two Augusta hotels, Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta and Country Suites Riverwalk Augusta.

Mr. Leech said the partnership wants the west Columbia property to lure small conventions and corporate meetings that ordinarily wouldn't convene in larger venues downtown.

The hotel gives Augusta River-front Limited Partnership, whose holdings include the downtown Wachovia office tower and Max-well office building, its first property outside the Augusta market.

Paul S. Simon, the president of the partnership, said the company had been interested in adding to its hotel portfolio since last year.

"We had just started looking when this came on the market," Mr. Simon said of the 9-acre property at 2100 Bush River Road.

He said the partnership will make major renovations to the 20-year-old hotel, which features a 170-seat restaurant and 20,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.

"Hopefully, by October it will be a Radisson," Mr. Simon said.

The partnership is a subsidiary of Azalea Development Corp., which is headed by William S. Morris III, the chairman and CEO of Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

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