Run of the Mill

The Enterprise Mill in Augusta, Ga., was vacant for more than 10 years when Clayton P. Boardman III, local businessman and owner of Boardman Petroleum, purchased it in August 1997. Boardman's plan included transforming the mill into a mixed-use property, but before beginning the makeover, he studied similar projects around the country. He decided to emulate the historic rehab projects that have been popular in urban markets for years by preserving the distinctive architecture of the 19th-century mill while transforming the interior into loft apartments, retail stores, and office space.

Built in the mid-1800s, the mill complex had received several additions over the years. Originally the property was constructed as a single-building flour mill. But, when Boardman bought the 260,000-square-foot property, it included six buildings in various states of disrepair.

Realizing that he needed a team of professionals to undertake this large makeover project, Boardman hired Mark Capers, a local contractor who had worked with him on previous projects, and Carlton Ralph Kitchens, CCIM, of Nichols Land and Investment Co. in Augusta, who would serve as the commercial leasing agent for the office and retail space.

Getting Started

Boardman, who financed the more than $17 million needed for the project, first focused on maximizing his cost savings by utilizing historic tax credits. As a qualified historic building with a planned income-producing use, the property was eligible for a 20 percent federal tax cut and an eight-year state property tax abatement.

The mill's physical transformation began with removing the existing textile manufacturing equipment. Historically significant items were salvaged for display, while most of the remaining paraphernalia was recycled. An environmental site assessment revealed some asbestos and lead. Abatement took about three months, and the entire property cleanup took nearly six months.

Preserving the Past

While the property was rehabilitated one building at a time, many structures presented similar challenges. In the 1950s, more than 500 windows throughout the property had been bricked in for ventilation and heating reasons. To restore the original window openings, workers used sledgehammers and masonry saws to carefully remove the brick. The process produced clouds of orange dust and required workers to wear dust masks.

Finding energy efficient windows that also closely resembled the original models presented another problem. The new windows had to meet historic preservation requirements, which significantly slowed the rehabilitation process. Eventually, a local company was hired to design the windows according to historical specifications, which included wood frames and single-pane glass.

In addition to historically accurate windows, Boardman also wanted to preserve Enterprise Mill's defining architectural elements -- two stair towers along the east façade of the mill's main building. Weather had deteriorated the towers and several parts had to be removed. Carpenters repaired the cupolas and replaced rotted roof shingles with more durable, hand-turned metal shingles. The staircases then were removed to allow the towers to become the property's main entrances.

Despite the property's post-makeover historic exterior, the interior was outfitted with modern facilities. “We made sure that we were class A space and offered amenities that no one else in the market area was offering. For example, [we offered] more choice for phone and Internet data lines, conference facilities and exercise facilities,” Kitchens says.

Dividing It Up

With the exterior of the mill maintained, the next step in the makeover was to divide the mill space into loft apartments and commercial space. “We first decided what areas would be commercial and what areas would be apartments, but we left enough flexibility to allow the project to evolve or to allow changes in the plans,” Kitchens says.

Thirty-seven apartments were carved out of the main mill. The removal of a third-floor attic from the building revealed unpainted heart-pine beams criss-crossing the space as well as several original skylights. These unique elements were incorporated into the apartments and ensured that every space in the property was different. Architects left duct work and pipes exposed to commemorate the property's former industrial use.

Two 40,000-sf floors in the main building were designated as office space. Kitchens found few leasing obstacles. “We had two advantages over the competition immediately -- an abundance of free surface parking adjacent to the building and the largest footprint of any building in the area,” he says. The first tenant was the Augusta Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, which helped the property gain popularity as well.

“Our next lease was a very large engineering firm. They wanted to be on one floor and needed a large amount of parking,” Kitchens says. Spaces ranging from 450 square feet to 22,000 sf were available and rents ranged from $17 per square foot to $22 psf. Current tenants include engineering companies, attorneys, investment brokers, tax-exempt organizations, phone companies, a real estate office, a photography studio, the canal authority museum, a sandwich shop, and others.

Enterprise Mill's Makeover

Original Use

New Use

Smoking building, 460 sf.
Used by mill workers for cigarette breaks

Leasing office for the property during construction, now available for commercial use

Starch warehouse, 1,040 sf Used to store starch for stiffening cotton textiles

Conference facility for the mill's office tenants featuring heart-pine tables made from wood salvaged during the makeover

Twisting building

Torn down with approval from historic commissions and turned into a courtyard

Main mill, 141,000 sf
Used for weaving, carding, and spinning textiles

Thirty-seven apartments ranging from 500 sf to 1,600 sf

Weave building and clerestory, 23,500 sf
Used for weaving

Office space for Boardman Petroleum and other tenants, a fast food restaurant, kitchen, bathroom, and conference room

Spooling building
Housed turbines and generators used as mill's power source

Houses generators, which provide the property's power, loft apartments on the second floor

Carolyn Bilsky

Area report is written by Carolyn Bilsky, associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate. Contact her at (312) 321-4507 or


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