Originally created 12/17/05

Company proposes high-rise building



An Atlanta developer is seeking permission from Richmond County to build a high-rise condominium building at the National Hills shopping center as part of a plan to renovate the aging property into an upscale mixed-use development.

The company, Kennedy Capital Group LLC, initially requested a zoning variance that would allow them to build the 197-foot condo tower, which is roughly 95 feet higher than the current code allows.

The case was to go before the Richmond County zoning board of adjustment Monday, but Kennedy Capital withdrew the request and asked that it be pushed back to February after Augusta National Golf Club officials expressed concerns about the project during a meeting with the developers earlier in the week.

The 17-story complex, if built as proposed, would overlook the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters Tournament.

"We're revisiting our height to see if there is an alternative that is more widely accepted." Kennedy Capital President Rich Martin said. "We'll probably scale the project back in response to some of the inquiries we've had, to be a good neighbor."

Augusta National spokesman Glenn Greenspan said Friday the club was leery of the proposed building's height.

"We are aware of the request for a zoning variance across the street from the Augusta National and are very concerned about the impact a high-rise structure would have on the Masters Tournament and the neighborhood," he said.

The condominium, referred to as Master's Terrace on architectural renderings submitted to the county by Kennedy Capital, would be the centerpiece of an upscale neighborhood center that would include 80,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Mr. Martin said the entire project would be in the $120 million to $160 million range.

Conceptual plans on file with the county show The Fresh Market grocery building remaining largely intact with the exception of a 6,700-square-foot addition. The Dillard's department store, which Mr. Martin said will close and be moved to the new Village at Riverwatch development under way on River Watch Parkway, is not reflected in the plans.

"(National Hills) is no longer a regional retail center; the writing is on the wall," he said. "There's going to be a good deal more of that retail fallout."

"What we're trying to do is get in front of that," he said. "This is going to be unlike anything else in that immediate corridor."

Mr. Martin said the luxury condominiums would sell for about $900,000. That's out of the price range of most locals, but affordable to many of the executives and corporations that come to town for the Masters Tournament.

"It's a very exclusive kind of product that doesn't exist in Augusta now," he said. "There's no secret the venue across the street affords us that opportunity."

Richmond County planning and zoning officials said they sent notice of the zoning variance to residents of the nearby National Hills subdivision two weeks ago and have received several calls of complaint - mainly about the building's height.

Even if the condo is built at the maximum 105 feet allowed for that property, "it would obviously be towering over" the nearby homes, said Bob Austin, a county building official.

A phone message left with National Hills Homeowner Association President Linda Locke was not immediately returned Friday.

"Hopefully they'll embrace, if not the magnitude, then the quality of what we're trying to do," Mr. Martin said.

It's not the first time a proposal for a high-rise condominium has been floated at the site.

Former Windsor Jewelers owner Donnie Thompson in 2000 announced plans for a 10-story condo building at the shopping center, which he co-owned at the time with local businessman Wayne Raiford and Alabama-based Boykin Management.

Mr. Thompson said Friday he sold his stake in the partnership, BT&R Enterprises LLC, earlier this year and is no longer affiliated with the shopping center.

However, he said he was familiar with the condo proposal.

"It was my idea, but I could never get my partners to go along with it," he said. "I think it will probably go through now, if they can get the zoning approved."

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

What's Next

Backers of the proposed National Hills condominium project are expected to go before the Richmond County zoning board of adjustment Feb. 20 to seek a variance allowing them to build higher than county ordinances currently allow at that site.