Augustalee could get new life
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Concord-based telecommunications seller ACN purchased the failed Augustalee development property in Cornelius for around $7.3 million, Cornelius Town Planner Anthony Roberts confirmed last week.
Joint venture firm Cornelius Bromont planned a massive $515 million development called Augustalee on the 104 acres between Interstate 77 and U.S. 21, south of Westmoreland Road, in 2008. The development would have included a 2.3 million square-foot lifestyle center with retail, residential, hotel and office space.
The size of the development would have strained the already crowded I-77 and U.S. 21, so Cornelius Bromont agreed to pay to fund widening I-77 to three lanes from mile marker 19 to exit 28 and to add a new Westmoreland Road exit 27. Cornelius Bromont committed to $90 million in road improvements. The town and state would have paid them back for the improvements over time through tax increment Financing based on the economic development the Augustalee project would have brought.
The developers were in negotiations with the N.C. Department of Transportation when they lost the property to foreclosure in August 2009.
Cornelius Bromont missed a contract deadline in late 2008 to lease future office space, and the Build Fund, a lender that had put $19.5 million into the project, foreclosed. Cornelius Bromont never broke ground on Augustalee.
Fifth Third Bank, another lender on the project, then acquired the land. The bank hired Piedmont Land Sales and C.B. Richard Ellis to try to sell the land for $18.3 million in September 2010, but was unsuccessful until now.
Transportation discussions are rampant in north Mecklenburg, with meetings and plans for widening I-77 and the proposed Red Line Regional Rail taking over N.C. DOT’s schedule. Taxpayers might have a flicker of hope that new owners of the Augustalee property are the white knights they’ve been waiting for to ride in and pay for transportation, but Roberts said that’s not likely.
“They’re not in that type of business,” Roberts said of ACN. Roberts is working on setting up a meeting with the new landowners.
Cornelius Bromont had to agree to fund those improvements because their project was so large, but Roberts said ACN probably would not play any role in widening the interstate or other major traffic improvements.
The new landowners will need approval from Cornelius to rezone and develop on the land.
ACN spokeswoman Katie Mapel declined to comment on the land purchase.