Sat, March 02, 2024

New life for historic James Brown buildings in downtown

New life and purpose are being breathed into three vacant buildings just off Telfair Street in Augusta. The three buildings, at 501, 509, and 513 James Brown Boulevard were built near the turn of the 20th century. Research by Historic Augusta found they have been empty since the early 1990’s.

Developer, Brendon Steffes says the old warehouse-type structures will be transformed into 22 apartment units, but will retain the feel of the history of the structures.

“If you’re looking at the first floor, you have beautiful storefront windows. And then all the upper floors, as well as the first floor will have tongue and groove wood ceilings,” he explained. “The whole front of the building will have restored original windows or modeled after the original window. Everything about it will be upgraded. We’ll have walk-in showers with tile and glass, upgraded finishes and features. All the historic trim work will be in there, so beautiful baseboards, crown molding, all the detail work that’s possible it will have.”

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Derek May, President of Azalea Investments, had the opportunity to tour the three buildings. He saw how the old was blending with the new.

“I saw how much work they put into figuring out how to turn those into cool downtown apartments, and how they kept things like the original doors and fireplaces and things that were in there,” he said “They were carefully updating these things. But you could see so much of the original character of these apartments, and every one of them was unique. It was not a cookie cutter at all, every one of them was a little bit different.”

Developer, Brendon Steffes says the historic buildings will not lose their character as the project continues.

Steffes is working with Historic Augusta to make sure the rehabilitation work is done within the guidelines for historic buildings.

“We usually meet with the property owner at the building and discuss what their plans are for the project and see if they fall in line with the Secretary of Interior standards or rehabilitation of historic structures. And if it’s pretty close, or they’re willing to change a few things to get within those guidelines, then we can do a tax credit project,” said Jack Jones, Preservation Manager with Historic Augusta.

The three buildings are located across from the entrance to the federal courthouse and across the street from the main branch of the Augusta Richmond County Public Library. It is an area of the city where several large housing developments are being constructed.

“I think it’s great that we’ve got these big developments that are coming up downtown,” said May. “But it’s a combination of these, as well as historic renovations like that because it really gives our downtown character. And we know we’re thousands of units short, and I’m convinced if we can get more people living downtown, all the other things that we want to have downtown will follow.”

One of the most sought-after conveniences people ask for is a grocery store.

“I think once the housing need is addressed, obviously, you’ve got to have all the other things that come with it,” said Jones. “So, I think this is a pretty exciting time for development in downtown Augusta. I think everything is trending in the right direction. So, hopefully, we can continue to help that trend.”

Barring any unforeseen delays, Steffes anticipates building inspectors will be able to examine the renovations leading to occupancy certificates. He hopes to begin leasing units by January.

“It’s a property that’s for everybody,” he said. “We want this property to be something that everybody in Augusta can appreciate, whether they live here, or they don’t live here. It’s about making Augusta a better, more beautiful place.”

For more information about the buildings involved in the development project including the Videtto, McCarthy, and Goodsell buildings, visit Historic Augusta.

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