The Sawmill Plaza in Richmond Hill now has a new look thanks to owners Steve and Vickie Myers of Richmond Hill, who recently transformed the building with the help of the Georgia Cities Foundation.
The GCF provided a $250,000 to the Development Authority of Bryan County in November 2011 for the project, according to a release from the Development Authority, who also made a simultaneous loan to Sawmill Plaza LLC, the project’s developer. The projects total cost was $870,000.
The Myers, owners of Sawmill Plaza LLC, often drove past the aging shopping center and imagined the possibilities for redevelopment.
“The shopping center wasn’t even for sale but a Realtor friend of ours negotiated a purchase price and the sales transaction for us,” explained Vickie Myers. “It was over 25 years old when we bought it. The plaza never had any renovations and was run down.”
The Myers first focused their energy on a Laundromat, Sweet Water Wash, located in the shopping plaza. The couple bought the business and as they prepared for renovations, an equipment supplier told them about the GCF’s Green Communities Fund.
“Through the Green Communities Fund, we learned about the Georgia Cities Foundation’s low-interest loans for commercial development,” Vickie Myers said. “We were very excited to learn about the financing opportunities. We were going to wait and save some money to begin the renovations, but the low-interest loan made the project affordable to start immediately.”
The Myers first used the proceeds from the Green Communities Fund loan to install high efficiency washers and dryers.
“We had a wonderful response to the Laundromat upgrades,” she said, adding that as soon as those renovations were complete, they began work on the plaza’s exterior.
“We put in a beautiful new stucco façade on the building, new awnings, sidewalks, windows, doors and upgrades to make the facility more energy efficient,” she said. “We also re-did the parking lot, which was in dangerous condition. It had never been redone and was full of holes, and we added new landscaping. I can’t leave my house without people telling me how thrilled they are about the renovation.”
One of those thrilled people is Richmond Hill Mayor Fowler.
“The Sawmill Plaza redo is beautiful,” he said. “Everyone has spoken favorably about it. We don’t have a traditional business historic downtown here in Richmond Hill, so the area where the shopping center is located is our main business district. We appreciate the owners coming in and taking initiative to go about doing this. It looks great.”
Myers also said the plaza’s tenants have reported an increase in business since the renovation.
Steve Croy, chairman of the Development Authority of Bryan County, said the authority plans to use the Sawmill redevelopment success as a tool in recruiting new business owners and additional redevelopment to the city and the county.
“We are very pleased with this project,” he said. “The renovations really enhance that property.”
GCF Managing Director Perry Hiott said GCF is pleased to have been a part of the Myers’ successful efforts “to transform the shopping plaza to an appealing location for both shoppers and business owners.”
Since 2002, GCF has provided loans totaling more than $13.1 million for 75 projects in 41 cities across the state, generating more than $70 million in new private investment.