In its heyday, Regency Mall was heralded as a unique shopping experience, unparalleled by anything in the surrounding area.
In fact, the mall, built by shopping center magnate Edward J. DeBartolo, was billed as the largest in Georgia at the time it opened its doors in 1978.
Today, however, it stands as an empty, beige behemoth — a reminder of a bygone era.
Weeds have poked through the mall’s asphalt parking lot and grown up around the shopping center’s perimeter.
Through the years, the facade windows — so modern in appearance when the mall first opened — were reduced to shattered glass and are now boarded up.
There’s a certain irony in the fact that many locals feared the mall would draw away business from downtown — a fear that was too soon realized.
Now, Regency Mall is the abandoned one.
It is just a shell of the once prominent mall that was home to more than 70 retail stores.
Poor Regency Mall has a sad history.
Within its first 25 years in business, the more than 800,000-square-foot facility off Gordon Highway gradually saw every single one of its stores vanish.
The doors were shut and the vacant mall went dark.
Some blamed a poor location away from an interstate for Regency’s demise; others, its competition with Augusta Mall, in the western section of Augusta — where dollars flowed more freely.
Regardless of the reason, Augusta had became saddled with the eyesore that is Regency Mall that still shows no signs of improving.
So what will become of the former mall?
For more than 15 years, there have been myriad proposals for the property.
More than a decade ago, the city considered it for the site of the future judicial center. Then, there were plans to convert the property into mixed-use residential/office space.
Those plans only got as far as the drawing board.
Finally, The Augusta Chronicle Publisher William S. Morris III proposed a $80 million sports arena, nicknamed the “Billy Barn,” to be built on the 70-acre site in 2004.
But none of those plans ever panned out.
All the while, the mall’s current owner, New York-based Cardinale Holdings LLC, has kept the property in complete limbo with an asking price that has been as high as more than $50 million.
Are they really serious with a $50 million price tag?
With that kind of asking price, there will never be any potential buyers for the former Regency Mall.
The memories of that mall will eventually fade away as Augusta’s population continues to age.
As the trees grow taller around the enormous property, many newcomers to the Garden City won’t even be aware of Regency Mall’s existence.
But if nothing is ever done to that property in south Augusta, it will be a huge political defeat for all of those commissioners who have representing that region for so many years.
Everyone from former Augusta commissioners J.B. Powell, Ulmer Bridges, Moses Todd, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Hankerson, Andy Cheek and Richard Colclough all the way up to the current south Augusta commissioners who were unable to transform that space, often called the center of the county, into anything beneficial.
Regency Mall will be the ultimate symbol of false political promises, but even worse, it will also be the image of all that is wrong with south Augusta.