Originally created 11/22/06

Group wants retail zoning



Developers are eyeing more than 80 acres near the intersection of Interstate 20 and Wheeler Road for a new "big box" retail center that would require major road construction.

Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Corp. is asking Columbia County planning officials to rezone a 31-acre section of the land, which is split by the county line, to allow for a shopping center that could occupy as much as 400,000 square feet.

For perspective, the recently built Mullins Crossing shopping center in Evans is just over 440,000 square feet. The vacant Regency Mall complex covers about 500,000 square feet.

Pam Baldwin, the project manager for Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial, declined to name potential tenants, saying the project is contingent upon Columbia County's approval. If leaders in that county approve the rezoning to a C-2, or "general commercial," the company will seek similar approval from Richmond County officials early next year for the sections of the property south of the county line.

"We're just trying to get all our stuff together," she said. "Nothing has been signed."

She said potential tenants would be companies without a presence in the market along with existing retailers moving from other areas in the metro area.

"It will be good for both counties," she said.

A vote on the rezoning in Columbia County was postponed two weeks ago by officials who wanted moredata on the project's potential traffic impact. The next vote has been scheduled for the Dec. 7 planning commission meeting.

No site plan has been developed, but preliminary drawings provided to the county show that developers propose to open up the property by building two criss-crossing roads, one that connects Scott Nixon Memorial Drive to Wheeler Road at its intersection with Flowing Wells Road, the other connecting Scott Nixon to Northeast Frontage Road.

Flowing Wells, which runs through a predominantly residential area, is currently a two-lane road.

"Flowing Wells is going to be the issue," said Jeff Browning, Columbia County planning director.

Most of the land is owned by the McKnight family of Augusta, the owners of McKnight Construction Co. Company President Will McKnight referred all comment on the project to Blanchard and Calhoun.

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