Originally created 06/02/06

Depot project is proposed



A Savannah-based developer has proposed a $120 million condominium project for the Reynolds Street train depot property in downtown Augusta.

Whether it happens is up to city commissioners, who will first tackle the issue at Tuesday's meeting.

In April, Harry Kitchens made a formal proposal to purchase the city-owned, 6.3-acre lot for about $1.85 million, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said Thursday. His plan calls for 160 to 180 condominium units that would sell for about $400,000 each.

"There is no way in my mind that we cannot take this opportunity to grow the tax base," Mr. Copenhaver said.

Mr. Kitchens worked on the project with Augusta Tomorrow, which commissioned an Augusta State University economic impact study, the mayor said. The study found that in five years, the condominiums could add $6 million to the tax base.

Commissioner Joe Bowles said he supports the project.

"I had taken two developers by that property to look at putting hotels there," he said. "They were not willing to invest in building one unless the city provided $14 (million) to $16 million for the project."

The city doesn't have that kind of money, and the condominiums appear to be a sound way to bring in more tax revenue, Mr. Bowles said.

Mr. Copenhaver said he believes most commissioners favor the project but doubts there will be a unanimous decision to move forward.

The century-old train depot would likely be incorporated into the building plan, Mr. Copehaver said.

The Downtown Development Authority recently secured a $450,000 grant with the Georgia Department of Transportation to renovate it.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.