Legacy Company Sees Old Becoming New Again
By Neil Gordon
The old is becoming new again in the real estate world, and one company well positioned to take advantage of that is one of Augusta’s oldest companies.
Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co. is on the verge of the century mark, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018. They’re thinking of hiring a historian to document their years in the city.
Blanchard and Calhoun’s commercial real estate business is booming and so is downtown Augusta. They oversee hundreds of thousands of square feet of space in downtown Augusta.
“It’s all about exposed wood, brick and creating an open, industrial feel,” Davis Beman, vice president and director of Commercial Real Estate, said of the old-is-new trend.
He points to restaurants like Farmhaus, open offices like Wier/Stewart and mixed-use facilities in different phases of operation like the Enterprise, Sibley and King mills
Blanchard and Calhoun’s origins are on 8th and Broad in the building now occupied by SRP. Currently they share space at 699 Broad Street with other tenants they manage, including Augusta University, which has its name on the former Wells Fargo building.
When Blanchard and Calhoun started in 1918, it was common for Augustans to live, work and play downtown. Some business owners lived where they worked, with the business occupying the first floor or two and their family living in the rest of the building.
Beman sees that coming back. Sanford, Bruker & Banks at 931 Broad St. is one such company, and others may follow.
In addition to the commercial ventures, Beman also oversees a portfolio of 1,500 residential units to lease. He may partner with developers to build and manage hundreds more in downtown Augusta to accommodate the influx of cyber employees and students.
“We’ll need 800-1,200 units eventually in downtown Augusta,” said Beman.
He says Augusta won’t be too far behind Savannah and Greenville, which he says each have more than 1,500 downtown units to lease.
Beman’s team manages more than 1 million feet of commercial space and their footprint stretches well beyond downtown Augusta with strong developments going on in Thomson, Grovetown and other pockets of the CSRA. Beman’s team also occupies another building on Davis Road, which helps it stay centrally located with their other clients.
The consulting part of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial is also growing as their team does in-depth site selection studies to help buyers understand that when they move or expand that that the old adage of “location, location, location” really matters.
Blanchard and Calhoun recently got creative with its TaxSlayer client, suggesting they move into the old Family Y on Broad Street and undertake the necessary renovations.
In another instance, Your Pie’s rapid growth at its North Augusta location led them to hire Blanchard and Calhoun to find two more locations, which they did in the soon-to-be built Plaza at Evans Town Center and across from the busy Gateway Shopping Center in growing Grovetown.
Perhaps the best example of their service is related to another client, Scottrade. The on-line financial trading consultant was interested in the strip center behind the Chick-fil-A in the Augusta Exchange.
“They told us, we need to be there,” said Beman.
But his analysis and knowledge of the area proved otherwise.
“Because the building behind the restaurant is perpendicular, visibility is tough and would have cost Scottrade more in advertising,” he said
Also, Scottrade’s typical client is professional males 30-50 years old, not the female shoppers that make up the majority of the Exchange’s customers.
Beman suggested the Washington Walk Shopping Center, anchored by Kroger, and the client’s been happy ever since. It gives the office a location on Washington Road near I-20 with some foot traffic.
Bemans says a growing trend in the CSRA is the increased leasing of flex space. They lease about a third of their commercial space for a combination office and warehouse use because it’s less expensive.
“Service businesses will continue to do well,” he added. “You can’t get a haircut online. It’s why most every strip center has a nail salon.”
He says professional offices are shrinking, with more storage in the cloud and more people telecommuting.
“Space has been culled down to more usable bodies in the office,” he said.
Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial will take time to cut the cake next year at the 100th Anniversary party – if only for a moment, so they can catch up to all of the growth in front of them in the CSRA.