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Shoppes at Abercorn Adding to Thomas Square Retail

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By Ted Carter

TBR Staff

In a show of confidence in the commercial viability of the Thomas Square neighborhood, a development partnership is converting a former A&P Grocery building on Abercorn Street into retail shops and office space.

The conversion of the half-century-old building on the east side of Abercorn Street between 41st Street Lane and 42nd Street calls for 10,0000 square feet of ground-floor retail and about 10,000 square feet of second floor space to be sold as office condominiums. The project, dubbed Shoppes at Abercorn, received Savannah-Chatham County Metropolitan Planning Commission approval earlier this month and has the endorsement of the Thomas Square Neighborhood Association.

"We're very cognizant of what the neighborhood wants," said Joe Wray, a Columbia, S.C., developer and principal in CAGB LLC, a partnership undertaking the project.

The ground floor retail space could provide residents with a bakery, hardware store, dry cleaners, small restaurant or other type of retail businesses the neighborhood lacks, Wray said.

"We're still marketing for retail," Wray said. "We've got several people interested."

Retails rates will be in the $19 to $24 a square-foot range, Wray said. Commercial broker Ivan Smith of Mouchet & Associates is handling the leasing for the retail space and the sales of the office condominiums. (Details: 912-238-5416)

CAGB, whose principals include Harry Reed of Columbia and Sid Johnson of Atlanta, met with the neighborhood association to gain an idea of what kind of retail residents want. Though the retail-office building will have 41 parking spaces as well as a number of available on-street spaces, the developers envision the shops as a pedestrian draw, bringing shoppers from Ardsley Park as well as Thomas Square. "We'd like to keep it as a pedestrian location," Wray said,

The building's exterior will be redone to expose its original brick, Wray said.

The office space element

The project will require a second floor addition of about 10,000 square feet that will be divided into office condominium suites. The building will have to be reinforced with steel throughout to accommodate the second-floor, Wray said, and noted the building will be equipped with an elevator and will have small walk-out balconies on the second floor. French doors will open onto the balconies, he added.

"We've got quite a bit of interest in the upstairs already," Wray said.

He attributed a lot of the interest to the building's several dozen parking spaces. "I think that is the key," Wray said, noting the spaces make it appealing to small office users looking to leave the downtown parking crunch but remain close to the business district.

Wray said the office condominium suites will sell in the $19 to $24 a square-foot range. They are typically bought with a 30-year mortgage.

CAGB is looking to convert more buildings in Savannah's older neighborhoods to commercial use, Wray said. "We think Savannah is an area that can support some new renovation and redevelopment. It's got as much potential - if not more - than Charleston."

The CAGB partnership has already built some industrial buildings in the Crossroads Business Park, according to Wray

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