Medical campus to bring changes

Normaltown residents will see their neighborhood around the Navy Supply Corps School change forever once the University of Georgia moves in.


A joint UGA-Medical College of Georgia medical campus will create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

It also will bring traffic and growth that will put pressure on surrounding neighborhoods, according to a study Athens officials received Monday from consultants RKG Associates.

Once the campus is finished 10 to 15 years after the Navy school closes in 2011, 1,100 to 1,350 people - from professors to security guards - will work there, according to the study. They'll help create another 900 to 1,100 off-campus jobs and will generate $1.4 million in sales tax revenue for Athens-Clarke County and $4.5 million in state income and sales tax.

The campus also will be a boon for the construction industry. Building the 1.2 million to 1.4 million square feet of indoor space, along with roads and utilities will employ 600 to 740 people and cost $255 million to $310 million, according to the study. That does not include parking decks. The construction also will indirectly create 810 to 980 jobs per year over the expected 10-year build out period.

All the growth will bring with it pressure for new housing and government services. As many as 2,400 new households could be needed, depending on how many campus employees are hired from outside the region, and 500 off-campus units for students. The campus will lead to new, higher-density residential and commercial developments, the study said.

The new workers will need schools for their children, police, fire and other services, but they won't create a demand for water or other utilities because the infrastructure is already in place, according to RKG.

The biggest impact, though, will be traffic. Consultants called for UGA to create a detailed traffic management plan to accompany its final site plan.

UGA plans to add parking decks to accommodate about 2,200 cars, but the study points out that there's no way to guarantee that students and employees won't park curbside in residential neighborhoods.

Consultants also predict that the redeveloped campus will become an "economic anchor" for the west side, benefiting existing businesses and spurring new ones. The economic growth will lead to rising property values and requests for rezonings that "will need to be carefully evaluated," the study said.

The final act for the Navy School Local Redevelopment Authority - the board that voted in June to let UGA take over the base when the Navy moves its school to Rhode Island - will be to approve RKG's final reuse plan.

The New Hampshire-based consultants will present the plan to the authority at a meeting this morning. The group is expected to approve it but will likely wait until after comments are compiled from a public hearing tonight, Base Reuse Coordinator Holly Reed said.

Although the authority will essentially be out of business after it approves the reuse plan that will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Defense in October, UGA still faces several hurdles on the federal level before it takes over the base.

The university must still seek a "public benefit conveyance" from the U.S. Department of Education to get the 58-acre base for free, and it will face scrutiny from environmental and housing officials as well. On the state level, its agreement with the authority calls for it to secure funding for the medical campus within three years.

In the unlikely event that the state Legislature doesn't fund the campus, or federal officials object to the plan, the authority will either split the base between UGA and a private developer or arrange for the Pentagon to sell the entire base to a developer.