Major tenant Shaw's supermarket expects to remain in place.
By Keith Edwards
AUGUSTA — Shaw’s Plaza, the Western Avenue shopping center which has multiple buildings housing businesses including Shaw’s supermarket, Big Lots, PetLife, Aspen Dental, Applebee’s, and Lamey Wellehan, is in foreclosure and is scheduled to be auctioned off later this month.
The shopping center, which city records indicate was built in the late 1960s, is up for auction Sept. 28.
The 18.5 acre property which includes the main building containing Shaw’s and several other retailers, as well as multiple other, smaller buildings and a large parking lot with entrances on Western Avenue, Armory Street and Capitol Street, is valued, by the city for tax purposes, at $16.4 million, generating $334,000 a year in property taxes for the city.
Officials anticipate if the auction goes through the property will find a buyer, and also anticipate it will remain home to the retail operations located there now. They’re also hopeful a new owner will potentially update the aging retail center in a prominent location which has, according to data provided by the auction company selling it, 26,500 vehicles a day pass by it on Western Avenue, 8,800 on Armory Street and 9,300 on Capitol Street.
“It’s a fantastic location and it’s a high traffic site, one of the highest in the state,” said Keith Luke, the city’s deputy director of development services. “The age of the facility is really the issue. It’s an aging facility and I think perhaps new ownership will bring some new vitality to the plaza. That’s what we’d hope for. It is an important location in the city and we expect that to continue.”
Teresa Edington, spokeswoman for Shaw’s Supermarket, declined to discuss the supermarket’s lease for it’s long-time spot in the plaza, but indicated the supermarket expects to be able to remain there if and when ownership changes hands.
“While we cannot comment on store lease agreements, I can tell you that Shaw’s is committed to serving the Augusta community at our store location on Western Ave.,” Edington said in an email. “Regardless of the site ownership, we have a lease for this location and we will continue to serve customers, as we have done at this store since 1968.”
The shopping center is owned by CAP Center Associates L.P., according to city records. Company officials could not be reached for comment.
Secretary of State records indicate CAP Center Associates is a Pennsylvania company.
The mortgage holder of the property, ML-CFC Commercial Mortgage Trust, is selling the property after the owner apparently breached the conditions of a mortgage, dated Feb. 9, 2007, according to a legal notice filed announcing the auction, which is set for 1 p.m. on Sept. 28, at the shopping center.
Mike Carey, senior vice president at Tranzon Auction Company, the company conducting the auction, said the shopping center remains a viable investment-grade, commercial property that is sure to draw interest from potential buyers.
“We’re receiving calls from throughout the country about it,” Carey said, noting the site’s location in the state capital generally brings economic stability because state government, and the employees and visitors it brings, isn’t going away.
Luke said he would be surprised if the site didn’t draw substantial interest. He said he had heard the plaza was struggling on some level and said companies that own shopping plazas can be in financial distress that isn’t directly related to the location of one of the shopping centers they own.
“Without some new investment and commitment to the property it could continue to struggle,” Luke said. “A new ownership interest and some retail recruiting could really turn things around in a hurry at that spot.”
Luke said regardless of what happens with the auction, he does not believe the shopping center would be closed down and its tenants ordered out.
“I have no concerns about the facility going dark,” he said. “I don’t think the bank would allow that. And it’s making some money. There is a large grocery tenant there. Maybe it’s not making enough money to float whatever financing the owner had on it, but the income on the balance sheet is not insignificant, either.”
While the original structure dates to the late 1960s, some of the outlying buildings there are relatively new, including the standalone Applebee’s restaurant built in 2002 and, on the corner of the lot adjacent to Western Avenue, Aspen Dental, built in 2008. The property’s various buildings, together, make up nearly 200,000 square feet of space, 63,000 square feet of that occupied by Shaw’s.
It was previously known as Capitol Shopping Center.
The legal ad announcing the auction notes the seller can choose to bid on and buy the property itself, cancel or postpone the sale, or reject all bids for the property.
Earlier this year another prominent Augusta property, Key Plaza in downtown Augusta, was listed to be put up for auction. But following at least three postponed auctions, the building’s former ownership group reached a deal with the seller to re-secure ownership of the large office building.