As local drivers are just now beginning to get used to traveling up and down the new Berckmans Road as they maneuver through west Augusta, many longtime residents can’t help but slow down and really look at all the changes surrounding the Augusta National Golf Club.
Entire neighborhoods are gone. Many hospitality houses are history. And no one is ever going to make any money parking cars in their front yards during Masters Week again.
Living next to the Augusta National isn’t what it used to be.
While many motorists this week were sitting in long lines of traffic and inching their way down Washington Road, some quickly noticed that Augusta National is already tearing up the asphalt along the old Berckmans Road.
Change is definitely coming, but some longtime resident are now wondering: What does Augusta National have up its sleeve next?
The gossip around town is that Augusta National may be itching to purchase more property along Washington Road, including parcels such as the Publix shopping center, Walgreens, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant and Wendy’s.
Some people are even speculating that Augusta National’s interest in land could stretch as far down Washington Road as the Washington Square Shopping Center, which includes the stores Stein Mart, 2nd & Charles, Carrabba’s and Hooters.
Why would Augusta National be interested in that much property?
Well, with the addition of the new Berckmans Road, Augusta National is beginning to create an extremely upscale “theme-park” atmosphere surrounding the golf club.
And, no, the Insider is not referring to goofy mascots or souvenir shops on every corner.
This is more of a completely self-contained and highly refined experience for Masters Week.
Some will argue that Masters Week has pretty much always been an exclusive sporting event (at least for the past two decades), so what’s the difference?
The difference is, once the gates to Augusta National close at the end of day, Masters patrons from all over the world now head out to eat at local restaurants, stay at local hotels or return to the elegant homes they have rented for a week in Augusta.
But what if those amenities were provided onsite for guests?
Luxury accommodations and the best in fine dining without having to even leave Augusta National’s property. A totally private, insular experience.
Remember, nothing is impossible when it comes to Augusta National.
This is the same private golf cub that purchased more than 50 lots from 1999 to 2006 for approximately $23 million.
Golf World magazine called the purchase of the properties one of the most “unprecedented buying sprees of neighboring commercial and residential properties” it had ever seen.
This is the same private golf club that pledged to lend the city of Augusta the necessary money, interest free, to advance the first phase of the Berckmans Road’s $16 million project in order to get it moving ahead of the state’s schedule.
Basically, the Augusta National bypassed Georgia DOT using its own money to get what it needed done in less than half the time.
Let’s face it: no one does that.
So, for Augusta National, nothing is impossible.
But here is the thing: why are people speculating that Augusta National wants to buy more property along Washington Road to better insulate itself?
Well, people are watching what property Augusta National has already purchased over the past few years.
Most recently, the Augusta National, under the name Berckman Residential Properties, purchased the Jiffy Lube property at 2730 Washington Road in October for $1.05 million.
You may have noticed that Jiffy Lube is constructing a new location just down the road in the former Firestone Auto Care building on Washington Road.
The Augusta National also owns the building that currently houses National Hills Tire and Service at 2718 Washington Road and the former TGIF location at 2800 Washington Road right next to the new Berckmans Road.
In addition, the golf course owns the two lots next to Walgreens on Washington Road.
For the larger lot that used to be home to the Augusta Comedy House Theatre at 2740 Washington Road, the Augusta National paid $3.5 million back 2001.
The owner of that parcel definitely got the last laugh.
The Augusta National also bought the smaller lot next to it at a price of $506,000 in 2004.
And then there is the matter of the property listed as 2830 Washington Road, which is basically 30 acres of land behind the Washington Square Shopping Center that the Augusta National paid $946,000 to purchase.
Piece by piece, Augusta National is expanding its empire along Washington Road.
For what reason? No one outside those gates really knows.
But change is definitely coming.