After months’ worth of construction along Railroad Avenue in North Augusta, the dust is finally settling and the entire community will soon get to see a new way of living at Riverside Village next to SRP Park.
“This has been such a big project. It’s probably one of the biggest projects that Augusta and the surrounding area has seen in years,” said Troy Jordan, partner of Jordan Trotter Commercial Real Estate. “You can talk about the project all day long, but nobody believes it is going to happen until it happens. And it’s happened. This started off being about a $150 million project and it has ended up being a $250 million project with a 170-room hotel, the Crowne Plaza, that will be open by the end of the year.”
The addition of new restaurants, retail stores, luxury apartments and office space at Riverside Village will truly complement SRP Park — the new home of the Augusta GreenJackets — and the nearby mixed-use neighborhood of Hammond’s Ferry, Jordan said.
“It’s just a new way of living,” Jordan said. “We actually went over and ate at Hammond’s Ferry last night, and it’s pretty interesting the atmosphere there. It’s just a lot more vibrant and young. It’s a different lifestyle that people are really enjoying.”
Riverside Village will be an extension of that new kind of lifestyle, he said.
“Everyone knows there has been a lot of construction in this area over the past year, but we are starting to settle down now,” Jordan said. “Tenants are moving in, residents are moving in and when the hotel opens, it will really be a live, work, play development.”
Crowne Plaza already has several conventions and even some weddings lined up for the first of the year, Jordan said.
“We also have two restaurants that are already committed. Southbound Smokehouse has already announced its opening, but we have one other restaurant that has committed to Riverside Village,” Jordan said, adding that he couldn’t identify the second restaurant quite yet, but an announcement will be made soon. “The demographics in North Augusta sort of cater to a little bit higher-end demographics, so, as a result, there are a little higher-end tenants that are going in over there.”
However, the rumor that’s floating around town that the new restaurant at Riverside Village is going to be Ruth’s Chris Steak House is not true, Jordan said.
“I’m pretty sure Ruth’s Chris is not coming, but I do know they will have a steakhouse that is opening in the hotel,” he said. “But it’s not Ruth’s Chris. We are finding out that this project is appealing to more local tenants instead of national tenants, and that’s who we are really seeing expanding right now. It seems like the national tenants have kind of slowed down a little bit and all of the local people are stepping up.”
Holton Brinson, an associate at Jordan Trotter, explained that Atlanta-based NorthPointe Hospitality Management, the same company that manages The Partridge Inn on Walton Way, will open and operate the five-story Crowne Plaza at Riverside Village.
“As far as the restaurant in the Crowne Plaza, I don’t know if the menu will be comparable to The Partridge Inn’s menu,” Brinson said, “but I believe the restaurant in the Crowne Plaza might be more steak driven.”
The Crowne Plaza, which is set to open in December, will feature 180 rooms and suites, a 120-seat restaurant and bar as well as a rooftop bar and a 5,000-square-foot ballroom and meeting rooms.
“Riverside Village will be a truly transformative development for the North Augusta River Region,” said Greg Winey, the president of NorthPointe Hospitality. “The amount of planning and detail that have gone into this project is extraordinary.”
“With our management and ownership footprint already established at the renowned Partridge Inn in Augusta, we have a leg up on the project having established ourselves in the neighboring community,” he added.
LOCALS ARE LOVING RIVERSIDE VILLAGE
As far as the retail at Riverside Village goes, Brinson said they are looking at stores that will encourage visitors to spend several hours at the development.
“The tenant mix we are going for is similar to like Surrey Center in Augusta,” Brinson said. “You don’t necessarily go to Surrey Center to get one thing. You’ll go there to eat lunch, and then you will pop into a dress shop or a gift store or stop by the florist. Basically, you want to have enough different kinds of retail to keep visitors entertained for hours.”
The two tenants that have committed to Riverside Village are locally owned, Brinson said.
Rafy and Hannah Bassali, owners of of the local boutique chains The Swank Company and Posh Tots, told the Metro Spirit in June that they planned to open a third Swank at Riverside Village.
“We are very excited about the stadium in North Augusta. We think it’s an awesome development with so much potential,” Hannah Bassali said, adding that was one of the main reasons they decided to open a new Swank at Riverside Village. “You can see how people already go to eat in Hammond’s Ferry and use the Greeneway, so I feel like once there is the retail added and there is more living spaces and just more things to do in North Augusta, I think it will be a big draw.”
North Augusta has done an excellent job looking at all the different aspects needed to support a new multi-million dollar project, Rafy Bassali said.
“They are putting a lot of residential units in that development, which I think is hugely sustainable for businesses,” he said.
Brinson explained that many of the local investors understand the importance of the Riverside Village project.
“We have about 300 apartments and approximately 40 condos that will be going in,” he said. “Of course, we say the GreenJackets are the anchor tenant for that development. They are the ones who are bringing in foot traffic for 73 home games every season and bringing the different concerts and events down there. So, it generates a lot of foot traffic that everybody else can jump on and succeed with.”
While Riverside Village might not be your typical development, it has a great deal of potential to continue to grow, Brinson said.
“This development doesn’t have the things that people traditionally look at in real estate such as the traffic counts or certain demographics,” Brinson said. “It takes somebody who is from our area who understands the magnitude of the project to put that kind of money into a location like this. They see the enormous potential in this development.”
Brian Brittingham, co-owner of Southbound Smokehouse, said he’s thrilled that the local barbecue restaurant will be opening its second location at Riverside Village later this year.
“Southbound’s new location will definitely be open by the end of the year. Absolutely, 100 percent,” Brittingham said. “And it’s funny. People always ask me, ‘Are y’all going to be open when the stadium is not open?’ People don’t understand the magnitude of this development. If you go over there, you’ll see just how awesome the views are of the river and the whole scenery.”
It is a tremendous location that will be vibrant and alive year round, he said.
“So, this is not something that is just going to be open during the games,” Brittingham said. “We’re going to be open all the time because this development is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen in this area. It’s going to be awesome once we open.”
In fact, Southbound is teaming up with SweetWater Brewing Company, a craft brewery from Atlanta, to offer specialty beers at the new location.
“SweetWater is brewing a specialty beer that we are going to call the GreenJacket Ale,” Brittingham said. “We did a tasting up at the brewery in Atlanta a little while back and, so now, they are brewing it just for us. We are going to start out with one, but obviously, we have a great relationship with them and we could have two, three or even more specialty flavors brewed by SweetWater that we would sell exclusively at our location.”
As far as the new Southbound location, Brittingham said there were be a lot of similarities between the restaurant at Riverside Village and the original location on Central Avenue.
“But, obviously, the building itself is brand new, so it looks more upscale from our original location,” Brittingham said. “The menu is going to be very similar, but the atmosphere at North Augusta lends itself to being able to kind of make it a little more upscale if we want to. Like, if we want to offer more specials, like whether it’s a scallop special or a ribeye special one night, we’ll do that.”
At the Central Avenue location, Southbound generally sticks to their customers’ favorites such as wings, pulled pork, ribs and sliders.
“We don’t offer a lot of specials or more upscale items at our current location because, on Central Avenue, you can go up the street to restaurants like Becks or Sheehan’s and get those kinds of dishes,” Brittingham said. “But, with us over in North Augusta, we are going to have the only riverfront dining in the CSRA. So, there’s people who will want to enjoy the ambience and see the river who also might want more than just our traditional menu. So we’ll probably do more specials at the new location.”
RIVERSIDE VILLAGE IS WORKING IT
While the hotel, restaurant and retail projects are well underway, the office spaces are also just beginning to be available for lease at Riverside Village, said Davis Beman, vice president and director of commercial real estate for Blanchard and Calhoun.
“This is about 15,000 square feet of office space that offers some pretty good views,” Beman said as he walked up to the third floor of The Clubhouse located along the left field of SRP Park. “We would like to start moving towards signing a lease and building it out by the end of the year. We just started listing it about a month or so ago, and we’ve already had some prospects. There is definitely some cyber interest because North Augusta is going after some of the cyber business, and I think this layout would really work well for it.”
In the seven-story Clubhouse, the first floor is available for parking, the second floor is the baseball clubhouse, the third floor is office space and the other top four floors offer 32 luxury apartment units.
“We believe those apartments will be successful because your millennials and your cyber folks are used to being able to walk to good dining areas for lunch and dinner,” Beman said. “And if you are a 25-year-old or a 30-year-old, those folks are going to live upstairs in the apartments, work here, eat at the nearby restaurants and go to the ballpark and shop at the retail.”
Pointing right across the street from The Clubhouse, Beman said there will soon be a new parking deck under construction as well as additional office space.
“On the other side of the street, that’s where there will be a 100,000 to 150,000-square-foot office building that will be built,” Beman said. “That’s tentative, but if somebody decides they want it, we’ll immediately start building it. So, we are marketing that as well as this existing space at The Clubhouse. And the parking deck will support both buildings.”
However, Beman realizes that future tenants must also recognize that this new construction will come at a higher price tag than what other local properties ask for rent. “From a rate standpoint, it is a higher rate than what Augusta usually sees,” he said. “The full-service lease rate for this building, which includes utilities and security, is $32 a square foot.”
Some people suffer sticker shock when they hear that price, he said.
“The problem we’ve had in the past is, we don’t have any new product in this area, so inevitably people are used to paying $22 a square foot,” he said. “The highest rate before this new construction was at the Augusta Riverfront Center at $25 a square foot. So, my challenge is just to get people to recognize that the rates are what they are because that’s the price to build good, new construction. And this is good useable space.”
The feedback from those who have toured the building has been extremely positive, Beman said.
“This entire area is a huge attraction from that standpoint that you can’t just re-create it,” Beman said. “It has taken North Augusta and the private developers years for them to put this together, but now that they have done it, they have an amenity that nobody else can provide. That’s what makes it so special and that definitely helps me sell it.”
‘LIVE, WORK, PLAY’ AT RIVERSIDE VILLAGE
Not only is Riverside Village drawing a lot of local and regional attention, SRP Park was recently named the 2018 Ballpark of the Year by BaseballParks.com.
For almost two decades, BaseballParks.com has selected one new or remodeled baseball stadium each year across the country that offers what an advisory panel describes as “the best combination of site selection, exterior appearance, architectural design and fan amenities.”
SRP Park won that recognition in August, and the announcement of the award was published in USA TODAY Sports Weekly.
“For BaseballParks.com to give us this award is truly an honor,” said Jeff Eiseman of Agon Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the GreenJackets. “When you have an outside, independent, respected voice that has done its due diligence seeing every ballpark, recognize our ballpark with this award, it’s truly special. It’s affirmation of what we believed.”
Joe Mock, founder of BaseballParks.com and a frequent contributor to USA TODAY, wrote that he was blown away by SRP Park’s design and amenities.
“When I visited SRP Park on its opening night, though, I knew instantly that this was a truly special facility — one that will stand out for many years to come,” he wrote. “Its riverside location and the way the park’s design takes advantage of that are truly remarkable.”
Mock, who has visited more than 200 ballparks used by the Major Leagues and the affiliated Minor Leagues, wrote that he believes that North Augusta and the GreenJackets have created a complete environment with SRP Park.
“The tremendous commercial development that is rising around it and the growing number of concession choices within the park make me look forward to visiting SRP Park many times in the future,” he wrote.
The designer of SRP Park, Tad Shultz of TL Shultz, was also quick to praise Riverside Village’s developer, Greenstone Properties, the Augusta GreenJackets and the city of North Augusta for its commitment to the project.
Troy Jordan of Jordan Trotter also had nothing but praise for North Augusta’s City Administrator Glover and the North Augusta City Council.
“Todd Glover, the administrator of North Augusta, he’s probably the sole person that has pushed this project through,” Jordan said. “And everybody did a great job with the stadium. We went to many ballgames this summer, and everything was excellent at the stadium and their firework shows were incredible. They really made that happen over there in North Augusta.”
After learning of the award in August, Glover said he was extremely proud of the work done to accomplish SRP Park.
“When the city of North Augusta teamed up with the GreenJackets to bring baseball to our community, a high-quality venue was vital to our riverfront development,” Glover stated. “We are thrilled that our stadium is now being recognized nationally. It is symbolic of the excellence that our citizens expect.”
A DEVELOPMENT FOR THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY
The next step to promote Riverside Village even more is to find new, creative ways to connect North Augusta with downtown Augusta, Jordan said.
“I do know the city of Augusta and the city of North Augusta are working together to try to figure out a way that they can link the two communities,” he said. “Whether it’s with a pedestrian bridge, or I know they’ve talked about shuttle boats and even gondolas. But if we can work on the connectivity between Augusta and North Augusta, that will be a win-win for both sides.”
One of the biggest concerns that some people in the community have expressed is the lack of parking around the Riverside Village, but Jordan believes that’s simply a misconception.
“Everybody is questioning the parking situation, but there are 1,600 total parking spaces down there. There’s plenty of parking. It’s just a mentality that people have,” he said. “Honestly, if we can fill up half of that every day, every tenant down there would be very successful. There will be more than enough parking. It’s just getting people accustomed to the parking decks.”
Currently, there is one deck now that offers about 500 spaces and a second parking deck will be under construction by January near the baseball stadium, he said.
But, in order for the parking situation to be completely successful, parking decks must be embraced by the entire Augusta community, he said.
“I think this is good for Augusta and North Augusta, because we just have never been accustomed to using parking decks,” he said. “But I think this has proven that it’s easy to accommodate the parking if you just go ahead and use the parking deck instead of riding around 10 times looking for that one open space.”
Many of the future tenants of Riverside Village are also hoping that the city of North Augusta will consider establishing an entertainment district in the area that would allow for open-containers around the development, Jordan said.
“It would be nice if you were waiting on a reservation and you could actually have a drink and walk down to the newly proposed amphitheater that the city of North Augusta is planning,” Jordan said. “A lot of the restaurants are pushing for that right now because, in an area like that, you don’t have people going down there to get drunk. They are just enjoying an evening out with their family or friends and many people live within walking distance of the development.”
The developer and the partners involved in Riverside Village have worked extremely hard to try and make sure that every piece of the puzzle comes together in this new development, Jordan said.
“Honestly, there is no room for failure over there. All of the businesses have to be successful,” Jordan said. “That’s why we are really being careful trying to attract the right tenants that will continue to strengthen Riverside Village. It’s a pretty incredible project that we are proud to be a part of, and it’s been exciting to see it all come together.”