A fantastic mixed-use development of retail, restaurant, office and upscale multifamily residential units is coming to Evans. It will create jobs, excitement, a new shopping environment that will be second-to-none in the area, and a town center that will be the envy of our peers in the Southeast.
In any endeavor so complex, some questions will naturally arise as the project evolves. For this reason, we would like to provide a few facts about the current status of the development.
Marshall Square, located at the intersection of North Belair Road and Evans Town Center Boulevard, is a planned unit development (PUD). This type of zoning requires approval by the county for the layout of the buildings and roads. No rezoning currently is taking place, but rather a revision of the approved site plan that involves a different layout and configuration of the residential and mixed-use buildings on the south end of the development.
In doing so, we are simply following the PUD zoning requirement to seek county approval for each revised layout. Apartments and condominiums were specifically mentioned and allowed in the original plan unanimously approved by the county commission nearly five years ago. The approved 2004 zoning narrative allowed up to 34 residential units per acre south of Ronald Reagan Drive. The 2009 site plan revision includes only 27 units per acre, on less than 13 acres south of Ronald Reagan Drive.
These are not just any apartments. This $40 million residential project will create the highest-quality luxury apartments in the metro Augusta area. They will be marketed to senior citizens and young professionals, already an important part of the Evans area.
Developed by Miller Valentine Group, the luxury rental units in Marshall Square will set new standards for quality. Proposed rents start at $850 per month for a one-bedroom unit and go up to more than $1,200 per month. This rental range compares with mortgage payments for $190,000 to $270,000 homes. The on-site population from these rental units will help to speed and encourage the central retail development on the site, and will immediately benefit nearby retail establishments.
The buildings throughout Marshall Square will be Williamsburg style, consistent with the county Justice Center and library buildings across Evans Town Center Boulevard. Landscaping and green space also will be of the highest quality. With county approval, the site plan calls for an extension of Ronald Reagan Drive through the site to create a "Main Street" area for restaurants and shops.
Most interestingly, our revised plan includes a large public square, providing a central gathering place for our community. Additionally, there will be first-floor retail space in two residential buildings adjacent to the square. We have endeavored to include substantial input from the community and the county planning staff, and these are two of many improvements that resulted from that process.
Each four-story residential building will have elevators and secure access. Other unique features include nine-foot ceilings with crown molding, garden tubs in the master bathrooms, security systems and garage parking. The proposed mix will include primarily one- and two-bedroom units for our senior and young professional market. As families with children are not the target demographic, three-bedroom units will make up only 12 percent of the units.
The high quality level of the buildings will allow the developer the option to convert some or all units to condominium ownership when the housing market improves. In a related project, 24 live/work condominium units are also proposed for frontage facing the park on Evans Town Center Boulevard, south of Ronald Reagan Drive. Live/work means business owners will be able to live above their businesses.
Research has shown that these luxury apartments will have a strong appeal to our target market: senior citizens who would prefer not to have the responsibilities of owning and maintaining a home, and young professionals such as those affiliated with the Medical College of Georgia and SRS, as well as civilian and military professionals associated with the expanding operations at Fort Gordon.
Town center projects are often joint public/private partnerships where the county pays for some of the infrastructure cost. The Marshall Square project has been funded entirely by the owners and developers. In fact, the Marshall Square project is already benefiting Columbia County taxpayers by providing the county access to our retention pond from several off-site locations.
The Columbia County Growth Management Plan produced in 2005 identifies the Evans Town Center area, including Marshall Square, as a "Tier 1 node," in which high-density development and multifamily housing are appropriate. Additionally, in 2001, the county produced a planning document identifying five sites that could potentially be developed as a town center for Evans, one of which was the Marshall Square site.
Big-box retail stores now anchor the other four sites. As residents of Columbia County, we'd like to see this last site, Marshall Square, become a beautiful town center and not another giant retailer location.
For more information about Marshall Square, please visit www.Marshall SquareAugusta.com.
(Dan Marshall Jr. is an Appling resident.)
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