On the same day that Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis posted a 15-minute video on Facebook defending his proposal to build the new $120 million arena at the former Regency Mall site, another prominent Augustan reached out to the mayor and offered him some advice.
Local developer and businessman Clay Boardman tried to explain to the mayor, in the most honest and sincere way possible, why he thought building the new arena at the Regency Mall location would be “disastrous.”
Boardman said he contacted the mayor because this issue is “too big to stand on the outside looking in and then waking up to an untenable outcome.”
For those Augustans who might have missed Boardman’s email to the mayor, here it is in its entirety.
It’s worth a read.
As a friend, I want to express my opinion and every other person’s opinion I have talked to, about your proposal. Your proposal is wrong, bad for the City, disastrous for the Arena, attempts to undermine the Authority and the powers granted to the Authority and is highly ill-advised. The Arena should stay downtown in either one of the two proposed locations. To lose N. Augusta, Aiken County and Columbia County spectators will doom the Arena. Moving it to your proposed location could bankrupt our community. Attendance will fall which will lead to the inability to obtain artists and the death spiral will begin.
There is no infrastructure in the way of bars, restaurants, hotels, attractions and other co-tenancy needs to support the success of an arena in this location. The demographics in that area will not support an arena and most people will choose not to patronize the arena.
There are alternate users for that piece of property once Cardinale decides to mark the property price to market price. I am very familiar with distressed mall pricing having underwritten many distressed malls throughout the eastern USA. As an example, we bought an operating, and cash-flowing, mall in NC recently that included 225,000 sf of retail and 32 acres of entitled land and paid $2.4mm for the property that once supported debt of nearly $50mm. The prices Cardinale are asking are absurd and insulting. To engage in talks with them for a land lease, tax abatements and improvements that they should have already made is ill advised and unfair to the tax-paying citizens of Augusta. To completely disregard the findings of a highly reputable study and good people on the Authority is insulting and yet another waste of an expensive study in Augusta. There are so many studies that have been bought, paid for and completely disregarded by the Mayor and Commission. They sit on a shelf unused as a testament to the poor leadership our City has endured over the years.
If I was in a leadership role in Columbia County, I would engage my own study in hopes of finding a suitable location there and sweep the rug out of Augusta generally and downtown and District 1 specifically. An arena in Columbia County would gut downtown and further shift the center of gravity and population to the west. Downtown, which has had much success over the last years in spite of little help from the public sector, will go down. Further development will slow, interest will wane and the Miller, Imperial, Bell and hotels and restaurants will suffer and stagnate and momentum will be lost.
We have waited over 40 years for downtown’s revival. We are now experiencing it and you propose, without going through the established process, to gut it and imperil our teetering credit rating. This is ill advised, poorly processed, poorly thought out and researched and simply the wrong decision. It is my hope that you will back off, let the process progress through the normal channels and respect our established form of government.
Thank you for reading.
There are many Augustans who feel exactly the same way. They couldn’t help but stand up and cheer when they read Boardman’s email to the mayor.
Mayor Davis, please listen to what Boardman is trying to tell you.
It’s time to step away from this deal.
It’s time to “move on,” as your friend and colleague, Commissioner Sammie Sias has said over and over again.
It’s time to keep the James Brown Arena downtown.