Synergy Mall?

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Sometimes the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

This is one of those times.

For years, there's been a huge disagreement over the value of the former Regency Mall. The county assessed it at $4.2 million. The owners, Cardinal Entities, claim they could fetch $50 million or more for it.

That's interesting, since the owners also fought the government's attempt last year to raise the property assessment to $5.7 million.

Now, however, there is a more objective basis for an assessment.

We have to admit it took us a second look to understand it, too. So let's go through the process.

The mall owners in 2007 bought the old Montgomery Ward building, the last part of the mall to close (in 2001), for $2.3 million.

Of course, the government's tax on your property is supposed to be based on its value -- and nothing establishes a property's value better than an arm's length purchase of it.

The county initially moved to add the increased value of the Montgomery Ward building to the $4.2 million assessment on the whole of the mall. But the Board of Equalization last year said hold on, and for good reason: The $2.3 million value of the Montgomery Ward property was a more accurate measurement of true market value than the $4.2 million figure on the rest of the mall. Why? Because it was based on an actual purchase, not just an opinion on its worth.

So, using the information from the Montgomery Ward sale, the county extrapolated the value of the entire 72-acre mall site to be $16 million.

That appears to be a more accurate valuation.

Now, we have a problem with anyone's taxes going up that much -- in the mall's case, being quadrupled from $51,223 to $195,000 -- in one year. There is a movement in the Georgia General Assembly to cap property tax valuation increases, and it's a good idea. If government is vastly undervaluing a property for years, it seems unfair to play catchup overnight.

The next question, though, after how much the mall is worth, is: What is it for?

Perhaps Cardinal Entities knows; why else would it buy up the Montgomery Ward parcel?

If not, we still think it'd be an ideal place for a new multipurpose sports and entertainment arena.

That idea was proposed a few years ago, and the Chronicle's company was a big backer, but the proposal died in large part because taxpayers were getting everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them.

Today, things are quite different. A new and more functional city government has proposed a package of special purpose local option sales tax items that is more focused and responsible.

And while the sports arena proposal isn't a part of the package, and the Chronicle is now only an interested spectator, we still think the Regency Mall site would be a wonderful location for a new arena. The current arena is out of date and based on 40-year-old technology.

Once we have the value of the mall nailed down -- and it looks like we're close -- then the question becomes what to do with it. We think it'd be a great regional sports and entertainment hub.

And the property? It'd be worth even more.

Putting the Montgomery Ward building together with the rest of the mall for tax purposes showed that the property was worth more than we thought. The whole was worth more than the sum of its parts.

Somebody asked AskOxford.com (yes, the dictionary people), "What is the word for 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts'?" The Oxford people suggested the word is synergy: "the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects."

Sounds like what we need to do, doesn't it?

Comments (28) Add comment
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HillGuy
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HillGuy 02/25/09 - 02:18 am
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How many times do the people

How many times do the people of Augusta have to say NO NO NO to The Billy Barn?

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 02/25/09 - 06:32 am
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This long rambling editorial

This long rambling editorial boils down to "what should we do with someone's property after we take it". Is this going to be an "eminent domain" situation?

dashiel
176
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dashiel 02/25/09 - 06:46 am
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As you so often do, PT, you

As you so often do, PT, you hit the nail on the head.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 02/25/09 - 06:48 am
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How about simply tax the

How about simply tax the property at what it is realistically valued, which is certainly more than $4.6 million? The owners says it's worth $50 million and now the city is assessing it at $16 million. Perhaps the more realistic tax appraisal will be a motivation to do something with the property so that it creates income or sell it to someone who will. If the mall has development potential, then someone will invest in it. A new Billy Barn will cost a minimum of $100 million to build, not counting the costs to buy the property and demolish the building. And with no hockey team or really any permanent tenant at the current civic center, just what exactly is the justification for a new sports arena? If we want a venue to attract concerts to town then build the Performing Arts Center downtown that has been talked about for years. This Regency Mall boondoggle that crops up every few years needs to die once and for all.

I4PUTT
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I4PUTT 02/25/09 - 07:16 am
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We seem to be working so well

We seem to be working so well with North Augusta now,. Why not move the entire structure to the river front? On the Carolina side.....It will most likely be up, running & profitable in 6 months.

edst4
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edst4 02/25/09 - 07:37 am
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Ummm Hillguy just in case you

Ummm Hillguy just in case you do not see news outside of the Augusta Area. All newspaper owners in this country are in trouble. I am sure at this point Mr. Morris is really not to worried about building a new Civic Center. So chill out with the Billy barn comment. OK? But on that note the current Civic Center is in shambles. What year has the JBA sold out with a major act or rather how many times in the last 10 years? The city of Augusta did not adapt when it had the chance to. So now all major acts now either drive by Augusta or fly over Augusta to other cities. Once again this city is left in the dust.

rufus
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rufus 02/25/09 - 07:55 am
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It would be a great site for

It would be a great site for an amphitheater.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 02/25/09 - 08:04 am
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Again.. how does building a

Again.. how does building a sports arena bring concerts to Augusta? If we want to build a facility to attract concerts then consider an outdoor concert pavillion such as Lakewood in Atlanta or a riverfront Performing arts center. Building a sports arena when Augusta has no hockey team, or any major indoor sporting team for that matter is just ludicrous. Is Augusta in the running for an NBA franchise?

HillGuy
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HillGuy 02/25/09 - 08:12 am
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The $76,000 study advocated a

The $76,000 study advocated a "privately funded" mixed use development at the site.. as did one commissioned about 7 years ago. No objective study has ever recommended a sports arena at The Regency site. The only parties that have been pushing this idea is Billy Morris and his paper, Frank Lawrence, and Jimmy Smith. This idea is as stupid as the drag strip idea, and even more costly, and ignores basic common sense about the current marketplace.

LaTwon
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LaTwon 02/25/09 - 08:50 am
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when is the last time the

when is the last time the river front amphitheater sold out? had an event? was cleaned? had the scum pressure washed off of the concrete? so lets see..........new baseball park, new arena,
new parks, new trolley, dragstrip, new court, sports arena.

the mall paid only 7 times more property tax than i pay on my house. thats fair. great job rc.

disssman
6
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disssman 02/25/09 - 10:00 am
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Question of the day is, what

Question of the day is, what would happen to the downtown if we had built a dragstrip? Were they affraid the competion on weekends was too much? I for one would probably go to the strip every weekend. As to the old mall, I haven't, been by there in years, but as I understand the property, there might be a problem with it. I have always heard there was a natural spring running under the mall. If that is the case, it would limit its use for a lot of projects. Has anyone else heard anything about a spring?

HillGuy
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HillGuy 02/25/09 - 10:02 am
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Yeah.. so many ppl would

Yeah.. so many ppl would flock to a dragstrip... like they are just flocking to the one in Jackson, SC... we'd have to build a new freeway just to handle the crowds.

dashiel
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dashiel 02/25/09 - 10:52 am
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dissman, I've always heard

dissman, I've always heard that too, about the spring. Also, when I was little, I remember the grown people talking about some terrible prediction Jeane Dixon made about the Regency Mall area before the mall was built. Dixon was a famous astrologer (psychic?) who had a syndicated column in the Chronicle. I wish someone who knows would share what Ms. Dixon predicted. [Maybe it was that a mall would be built to thrive briefly before it was overrun by vandals and goths; then would remain a blot on the landscape and in conversations forever & ever.]

curly123053
5343
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curly123053 02/25/09 - 10:59 am
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Maybe Preacher Joel could buy

Maybe Preacher Joel could buy it and build an Augusta version of his Houston Lakewood Church. I have been to the Lakewood Church and it is a tourist attraction as well as a life changer for the better. Just an idea since I saw Hillguy say something about Lakewood in Atlanta.

Michael Ryan
800
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Michael Ryan 02/25/09 - 11:03 am
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This editorial did not

This editorial did not suggest eminent domain. We're against that in the case of converting property to private use (see the Kelo case). We do hope that a more realistic value will make a purchase, perhaps by the community, more viable. But we clearly said only if the present owners don't have better plans.
As for Billy Barn, you need to give that up. We clearly said the Chronicle no longer has anything but a rooting interest in the idea.
Michael Ryan
Editorial page editor

jack
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jack 02/25/09 - 11:28 am
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Keep saying NO to a Billy

Keep saying NO to a Billy Barn.

jedex6
18
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jedex6 02/25/09 - 01:28 pm
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Religion is the biggest

Religion is the biggest business around here. Pastor Joel or whoever he is should definitely build a 900 lb. gorilla of a mega-church. We don't have near enough churches, along with the scourge of Christian fundamentalism they bring, in the CSRA.

edst4
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edst4 02/25/09 - 02:09 pm
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Yo Hillguy you idiot. Where

Yo Hillguy you idiot. Where did I use the term Sports Arena. I said Civic Center. Repeat after me C.i.v.i.c C.e.n.t.e.r there you go you said Civic Center all by yourself aren't you a BIG boy now? You flipping idiot.

sprintman
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sprintman 02/25/09 - 02:23 pm
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''We seem to be working so

''We seem to be working so well with North Augusta now,. Why not move the entire structure to the river front? On the Carolina side.....It will most likely be up, running & profitable in 6 months. Posted by I4PUTT on Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:16 AM'' It took North Augusta 20-30 year's just to start their side of 520 palmetto pkwy.

KSL
143315
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KSL 02/25/09 - 03:03 pm
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Could have had something to

Could have had something to do with funding and whether there was a real pressing traffic neeed for it, sprintman.

Riverman1
93291
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Riverman1 02/25/09 - 04:56 pm
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I'm curious why the Chronicle

I'm curious why the Chronicle supports a new arena, but not a baseball stadium on the river? Is it simply a matter of money and the thought that we can't support both projects?

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 02/25/09 - 05:24 pm
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Riverman, I think you are on

Riverman, I think you are on to something.. I think this may just be an attempt to sink a riverfront ballpark. Their idea is to load the SPLOST ballot with a $100+ arena boondoggle that voters will reject and in the process will reject the ball park too. Backlash against the Billy Barn is what killed the performing arts center too a few years ago.. as they were all on the same ballot. To voters it was just all too much, and unfortunately the good projects went down with the bad.

imdstuf
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imdstuf 02/25/09 - 06:45 pm
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All those that would want to

All those that would want to ride over there at night for sports or entertainment raise there hand....I was raised on that side of town, but even I know that is not currently a good site for such an arena. Swamp land, not near the expressway or interstate, in a run down part of town, no great eating establishments around it (yes I know if an arena was a success it could bring business around it..but its a chicken or egg comes first issue).

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 02/25/09 - 07:02 pm
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Why build a sports arena when

Why build a sports arena when Augusta has no arena-based sports teams?? Did someone tell Micheal Ryan the Lynx are gone.. primarily because they couldn't sell enough tickets in the small civic center? Why can't we just get rolling witha Performing Arts Center is we want a venue for concerts?

edst4
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edst4 02/25/09 - 07:18 pm
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Hillguy since you have such a

Hillguy since you have such a hate for the "Billy Barn" or Morris in general. Why are you posting on his website. Get over this "Billy Barn" thing gezz. But then again on that note. We would not have a Riverfront if Mr. Morris did not invest his money into the Marriots that are there as well as the office building behind channel 6. Then you have the Southern Art he has on display. As well as 5,000 plus employee's WORLD Wide and to you SIR what have you done for Augusta, besides hide behind a name on "Billy's" website.

edst4
0
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edst4 02/25/09 - 07:20 pm
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Once again IDOTS like Hillguy

Once again IDOTS like Hillguy rule the world. Wish I knew who you were I would give you the king idiot award!

gcap
290
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gcap 02/25/09 - 07:39 pm
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Just let the current owners

Just let the current owners hold on to it. At least we'll collect some taxes from out-of-state owners. Right now, there's no good use for that parcel.

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