Santa delivers an early Christmas Gift
During remarks before the ribbon-cutting and public unveiling of the four-level building, County Commission Chairman Ron Cross thanked Meybohm for taking a leap of faith to spearhead development of the 26-acre parcel the county acquired in 2010. Cross, a longtime friend of Meybohm, also joked it was now too late for the chairman to have buyer’s remorse.
“Really, we have him now over a tremendous barrel,” Cross quipped. “He has to continue with other things; he’s spent so many millions he can’t back out now and just quit.”
Augusta Chronicle September 19, 2018
Apparently, it is the other way around.
The vacant Meybohm building, which has one paying tenant after opening over a year ago, is throwing shade on the entire ‘heart of Evans” development called The Plaza at Evans Towne Center, a $65 million public-private partnership.
It is no secret the building is priced at the top of the market, and businesses are chafing at paying over $30 per square foot when comparable space can be had for almost half that rate.
The county, after donating the $1.2 million parcel to the developer, is now in a position to throw good money after bad.
“Given Columbia County’s long‐term growth and position in the Augusta MSA, incentives are generallyDestination Retail Incentive Policy
not necessary for a majority of retail businesses”
The Columbia County Commission has announced an incentive program, the Destination Retail Incentive Policy, to make moving into the building more palatable. Businesses can now apply for a loan or grant of up to $200,000 to soften the blow of sticker shock.
Some destination retailers, however, require assistance in alleviating location concerns, mitigating elevated rental and build‐out costs, and filling a potential gap in their financing model.Destination Retail Incentive Policy
While the incentive seems to be presented with good intentions, the county is essentially subsidizing rents with taxpayer money.
To be eligible for incentives, a project should meet the following minimum requirements: Locate in an approved development corridor. (Funding is available only in the Evans Towne Center Overlay)Destination Retail Incentive Policy
If a retailer can’t afford to open in “downtown Evans”, odds are it won’t be able to afford to stay open in ‘downtown Evans’. While there is a claw back option for the loans, county leaders know you can’t collect your money back from a business that doesn’t exist anymore.
Many feel the optics of this program are not good.