NEWS ARTICLES 2008
Booming on Broad Street
Months ago, the Metro Spirit reported that the purchase and subsequent restoration of the J.B. White’s Building was going to be just the beginning of downtown revitalization. And while we hate to say we told you so… we really did. Shame on you for doubting us.
For months, there has been unspoken collective hope that the massive overhaul of J.B. White’s was a merely a forerunner of things to come. That hope, it seems, is finally coming to fruition.
While the prospects of new construction projects such as the TEE Center, the Watermark and even a potential baseball stadium have caused quite the stir, it doesn’t stop there.
Downtown Augusta is in the midst of a flurry of real estate activity as investors, speculators and business owners from all over the country have been plucking up existing (and sometimes dilapidated) buildings. These individuals have big plans for their new acquisitions.
Lofty Ideas Building, 8th and Ellis — Who better to breathe new life into a historic downtown building than J.B. White’s savior Sherwin Loudermilk? Located on 8th Street between Ellis and
Greene, the building (currently under contract) already exudes its sizable potential of becoming one of the great places to live downtown (aside from White’s, of course. You can pay us later, Sherwin).
Loudermilk’s investment company, Horizon, intends to construct eight high-end apartments and two commercial spaces on the first floor.
“These units will probably be about 1,800 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms apiece,” said Loudermilk. “We’re also going to have upgraded floors and granite countertops. There’s going to be some really nice stuff.”
Woolworth’s, 8th and Broad — A mere stone’s throw away lies a building that has a stood vacant and forlorn for decades, almost as a testament of the city’s difficulties in moving forward. While not necessarilya recent transaction (the building was purchased last fall by California developers), the new owners of the Woolworth just received a tentative nod of conceptual approval at the last Historic Preservation Commission meeting.
Nothing is firm as to exactly what will be going into the building, but concept drawings show lofts upstairs and several retail spaces downstairs.
Boots Building, 9th and Ellis — Yet another building that has caught Horizon’s eye, and as such is destined for a new life. Steeped in history, this building was once a boot producing factory for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War (hence the name).
The building would later become one of the first segregated elementary schools in Augusta, and even served as a storage house for the old J.B. White’s department store. But like the Woolworth’s, the building has sat abandoned and dejected for years.
Loudermilk, however, sees a bright future for the deteriorating edifice. The high-end condos he intends to build here will each have three floors and boast of tandem garages — something quite handy if you live downtown. Loudermilk also says he hopes to create rooftop patios, though those plans are still in the works. The second and third floors will house the living areas and bedrooms, respectively, complete with all the amenities one would expect from luxury apartments.
But what will truly make this building unique in the area is not the hardwood floors nor the stone countertops, but rather its technology.
“It’s going to be wired as a completely ‘smart’ building,” said Loudermilk, his pride clearly detectable over the phone. “What this means is that residents will have the ability to control to just about every aspect of their home — from the lights to the air conditioning — by using just their cell phone and the power of the Internet.”
A camera mounted on the roof of the White’s building will be pointed directly at the Boot’s Building, allowing residents to see who’s at the door simply by checking their phone.
The Green Building, 10th and Broad — This former consignment store, known by many for its adornment of brown paper in the windows, was recently snatched up by local community activist and philanthropist Braye Boardman.
“Downtown is just so vibrant,” he says. “I’m really excited about all the things that are happening right now.”
Several decades ago, says Boardman, downtown saw the malls suck the lifeblood out of it. Lately though, the trend has been reversing.
Boardman’s plan for the Green Building is accurately summed up in its name — green.
“We want to redevelop this building in an environmentally responsible manner,” he says, adding that he hopes Green to make LEED certified. According to the LEED Web site, certification requires that any given development or redevelopment “proceed with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while simultaneously minimizing environmental impact.”
LEED certification is not easy to obtain, but when Boardman finally does get it, the Green Building will be able to wear it like a badge of honor. As for the building’s future, Boardman is looking at creating both commercial offices and a loft upstairs, though there are no firm plans as of yet for the first floor.
While these are just a few of the numerous deals currently taking place in the Central Business District, (including the pending purchase of the Commerce Building, a hotel on the Common and condominium projects off Walton Way), it shows that while Augusta continues to shine in the marketplace, downtown will continue to bloom.