AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- Sibley and King Mills were once the lifeblood of the Harrisburg neighborhoods, but as textile mills were outsourced, the area around it changed.
“People, as they do, tend to move out of the urban core and move into the suburbs, which is typical of what you see virtually all across the country in that same time frame,” said Phillip Williams, president of the Harrisburg Neighborhood Association.
A local developer is trying to reverse that trend and bring the mills into the 21st century as the Augusta Cyberworks.
“The Augusta Cyberworks is essentially just over a million square feet, almost 60 acre mixed use, major mixed use redevelopment project,” said James Ainslie, president and CEO of Cape Augusta, which is the company developing the project.
Cape Augusta was originally interested in the mills as a data storage unit. Their proximity to the Augusta Canal makes the mills attractive because the water can be used to keep the hardware climate-controlled at a relatively low cost.
“But when we came to the canal authority to negotiate the grant lease, they told us we couldn’t just do a data center,” Ainslie said. “They told us they wanted us to redevelop the entire complex.”
Now, they’re looking to also looking to build office space in Sibley Mill and 250 apartments in King Mill, as well as retail and restaurants– all of that on top of an investment of about $350 million in the data center.
“The development of the mill is going to be just a tremendous boon to the neighborhood,” Williams said.
Ainslie says they plan to break ground on the apartments in September 2018 and the data center sometime within the next 12 months. He says both projects should take about 18 months to complete.
“I think you’re going to see a tremendous surge just in the next couple of years as people, particularity developers, see the value in the property here come in and buy it up, fix it up, and resell it,” Williams said.
He also says the only issue with the project he’s heard is that the cost of living could get expensive for elderly folks with fixed incomes in the area. He says he’s looking to talk to the tax commissioner to see about that.