Phase II of Mullins Crossing Kicks off with Belk Opening
By Gary Kauffman
It’s taken a few extra years, but Phase II of Mullins Crossing in Evans has begun.
Anchor store Belk opened on Wednesday, the first store of Phase II, although owner-developer Joe Mullins said there are commitments from other businesses. Those have not been announced, though.
“We made an agreement with Belk that we wouldn’t rob any of the limelight from them,” Mullins explained.
Phase I of Mullins Crossing opened in 2006 and has been well-established with stores like Kohl’s and Target. Phase II was originally expected to begin in 2013 but Mullins decided to wait until Columbia County finished the River Watch Parkway extension to relieve some of the congestion on Washington Road.
Clearing land for Phase II began in 2015 in conjunction with the road expansion, and construction of the buildings began this year.
“That shopping center wouldn’t be there without the Columbia County Commissioners and the state working on that road,” he said.
He added that placing a stoplight on Washington Road at the entrance to Phase II was also a key component. There is also a stoplight at the entrance to Phase I.
Mullins, who along with his family owns the development, said landing Belk as the anchor store was an important part of the launch of Phase II. He said they approached Belk with the prospect of being the anchor.
“We like their growth and stability,” he said. “They’ve made some really good moves. We showed them that Columbia County is one of the fastest growing areas of the state and courted them from there.”
The demographics of Columbia County and Target’s success as an anchor in Phase I helped convince Belk to open the store. The only Belk currently in the area is in Martintown Plaza on Knox Avenue in North Augusta.
But Belk has a long history in the Augusta area, first opening a store in downtown Augusta in 1934, and at one time operating three area stores. Belk had also been an anchor in the now-defunct Regency Mall, but closed that store in 1996.
Mullins said after Belk was confirmed as the anchor store, he began receiving interest from other companies that will begin being announced after Belk opens.
“They’re very high end,” he said. “It’s a good mix for Columbia County. We’re focusing more on boutiques and restaurants for this phase.”
Exactly how many stores will wind up in Phase II is still a bit undecided and will depend on the needs of the businesses coming in. In addition to the mall area, there will also be ample space for buildings on the perimeter.
Mullins is aware of the requests of many in the area for a nice sit-down restaurant and said, “Those are on the way.”
He said the stores will complement rather than compete with those in Phase I. The two phases will be connected but it hasn’t been decided yet how that will happen.
“But it’ll all flow together,” Mullins said.
Aesthetics will play a big role in the construction of Phase II, including a courtyard atmosphere. The stores are constructed from stone and faux wood.
“You’ll feel comfortable going from store to store,” he said. “We want to make it a destination where you can shop and eat.”
Because the Mullins family will retain ownership of Phase II, they feel it is important to bring in stores that will last and be good for the community.
“We develop them with the intention that we’ll own them for many years to come, so we focus on making the right decisions,” he said.
Both phases of Mullins Crossing are built on the Mullins family farm and there is still land remaining. Once Phase II is completed, will there be a Phase III?
“I can’t answer that one way or the other,” Mullins said. “But it is very early to be done with it. You’ll probably hear from us again.”