Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz worried about Walmart land deal

GHSU president requests area development plan

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 6:47 PM
Last updated 10:55 PM
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On Jan. 17, the Augusta Commission voted to sell a parcel of land to Walmart for development of a downtown store, a move that has elicited concern from the Medical College of Georgia Foundation.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
SARA CALDWELL/FILE
On Jan. 17, the Augusta Commission voted to sell a parcel of land to Walmart for development of a downtown store, a move that has elicited concern from the Medical College of Georgia Foundation.

Concerns about a proposed downtown Walmart Neighborhood Market that could affect property owned by a Georgia Health Sciences University foundation prompted GHSU on Tuesday to call on developers and the city to present a “win-win” plan for the area that provides for broader development.

President Ricardo Azziz said he did not initially know much about the grocery store that would be developed on a city-owned parcel off 15th Street. He said he became more concerned late last week, particularly after reading an Augusta Chronicle article in which an attorney who represents the newspaper said the vote to authorize the sale should not have been made in closed session.

As details emerged, Azziz said, he has grown more concerned that the development of a single store could harm adjacent property owned by the Medical College of Georgia Foundation, which already contains a Kroger grocery store.

“I am not opposed to the Walmart development if the Walmart development is part of a larger plan,” he said. “What I am not in favor of is the plan as it is now: a one-off store that is not part of a greater vision for that area and if anything will be, in the short run, detrimental to the university.”

Azziz said he has not talked about taking legal action over the vote or over the sale, echoing the sentiments of foundation CEO and President James Osborne.

“I don’t particularly feel like getting into litigation with the city,” Azziz said. “These are our partners. We just need to have a better conversation to build a better plan.”

The foundation is still seeking answers on why it was not allowed to buy the Augusta Public Transit property next to its 13 acres off 15th Street. The foundation made an offer of $1 million for the property in 2009 after hearing from developers, including one from Atlanta, that outlined plans for a hotel, two restaurants and perhaps a continuing education center and alumni center on the expanded site, Osborne said. Most major health sciences universities, such as Duke and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, have similar facilities next door, and the property serves as an entrance to the university and to the medical district, he said.

“We don’t have those kinds of amenities here,” he said. About 90 percent of the traffic to the university and district comes along the 15th Street corridor from Interstate 20 and Calhoun Expressway, Osborne said. The sale was blocked, however, and the foundation still does not know why, nor why the current sale had to be done in a closed meeting.

“I think the ball is in the city’s court to give us some answers,” he said.

Jim Plunkett, the special city counsel who presented the Walmart proposal to the Augusta Commission on Jan. 17 before its closed-door vote, said that nothing the commission has agreed to prevents Walmart from being included in a larger development plan for the area.

A resolution signed by Mayor Deke Copenhaver that day sets the sales price, provides for environmental remediation if needed, and addresses the presence of Federal Transit Administration and state liens on the land that must be repaid if the property is no longer used as a bus maintenance shop, he said. Development plans could easily expand to include the foundation-owned area, but Plunkett said the general intended footprint of the Walmart is unlikely to change.

The Walmart offer came along as completion of a new facility to house the city buses in south Augusta neared. It is expected to be complete in 10 to 12 months, he said.

Azziz said he has heard from the developer, Blanchard and Calhoun, and from the city but would like to see a broader plan “relatively soon,” perhaps this week or next.

“Certainly, they have the opportunity to build not just one grocery store but multiple commercial facilities, perhaps a hotel, perhaps actual living space, a number of things,” he said. “And to be fair to the city, the city is interested in doing the same thing. We just need to find now that win-win plan, which should not be very hard to do if people are willing and desirous of doing it.”

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Riverman1
83967
Points
Riverman1 03/06/12 - 08:56 pm
6
1
If the Foundation builds an

If the Foundation builds an upscale hotel, restaurants, a continuing education center and an alumi center in that rundown area it would be a miraculous change. GHSU will also provide 24 hour police protection with Georgia certified police officers. Now think about all that for a minute.

We spent $100 million on the TEE center for a promised hotel that never materialized. This will cost us nothing, but cooperation.

comet2u
28
Points
comet2u 03/06/12 - 10:51 pm
3
2
The GHSU/ASU merger was voted

The GHSU/ASU merger was voted on in a closed session, now Azziz cries foul when the city conducts business in an identical fashion. Come on, gimme a break. Boy karma is an umph.

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 03/07/12 - 12:41 am
2
2
GHSU feels left out of the

GHSU feels left out of the Walmart deal, but tried to close part of Laney Walker before talking in detail with the neighborhood association, etc..

The Tee Center cost $38 million, and not $100 million.. The citizens of Richmond County approved the TEE center.. The Hyatt hotel downtown isn't dead at the moment.. The TEE center and other recent government projects(library & judicial center) will help bring new private construction including hotels(i.e purchasing of Fort Discovery and WJBF studios)..

Frank I
1191
Points
Frank I 03/07/12 - 02:17 am
2
0
the foundation tried to

the foundation tried to purchase the land with plans for development in mind for twice what Walmart paid for it, and in the end after selling for just over $500,000 the city will only net $40,000 after paying back the state and fed.. Why would you sell for $40k when you could get $540k?

LouLou
6
Points
LouLou 03/07/12 - 04:40 am
4
1
I think this gentleman thinks

I think this gentleman thinks he owns Augusta

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 03/07/12 - 07:20 am
0
0
Because of the tax money
Unpublished

Because of the tax money they'll continue to get after the sell

my.voice
4824
Points
my.voice 03/07/12 - 09:20 am
2
1
Dr Azziz, Please understand

Dr Azziz,
Please understand your demand for a larger plan isn't how private development works. Developers purchase land and develop it. Institutions like MCG (sorry, it will always be MCG), are able to buy acres and acres and plan for their development. Most private development doesn't have the unlimited resources that your kingdom does.

Wal Mart will displace some of the local vagrancy in the area and by attraction, fuel additional development. And comparing Wal Mart to the Kroger is a joke. That Kroger is dated, run down, and has been allowed to become the death trap that it is. Kroger elected NOT to upgrade this location, and that's going to be a regrettable decision. The Wal Mart will force Kroger to sink or swim. Additionally, Wal mart can only be good for MCG and the neighboring residents, bringing a node of needed commercial availability and choice to the area. Wal Mart, love them or hate them, WILL attract satellite commercial, further improving this corner of Augusta.

I'd think you have your hands full with the ASU-MCG merger and wouldn't have time to try and control the rest of Augusta. We were here long before your arrival, and we will be here after your departure. Try and understand that and "govern" accordingly.

KSL
129543
Points
KSL 03/07/12 - 07:59 am
2
2
A little power goes a long

A little power goes a long way in the minds of some people. Note: See the current residents of the White House.

agrit
178
Points
agrit 03/07/12 - 08:47 am
0
0
hehehe ....

hehehe ....

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 03/07/12 - 09:25 am
2
2
The headline says a college

The headline says a college president is worried about a Walmart land deal. Well, Little Lamb is worried about a self-aggrandizing college president who spends an inordinant amount of his work time seeking attention in the print and video media. That's not helping our medical students.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 03/07/12 - 09:30 am
0
0
RM, you're turning into

RM, you're turning into countyman. If the MCG Foundation builds a luxury hotel and restaurants down there, they're nothing more than real estate speculators. I'd rather have private businesses in private hands. This "public/private partnership" notion is nothing more than classic fascism. The polite buzz word for it today is "crony capitalism."

ATAXPAYER2
0
Points
ATAXPAYER2 03/07/12 - 10:43 am
1
0
.voice.... I am so with you

.voice.... I am so with you on this. As an employee of MCG (yeah, MCG and not the myriad of whatever the name of the day may be) it really boils my blood that this man comes in here and is more concerned with our city than with our university, hospital, clinics, and its employees.

Kroger is junk. I've personally been attacked over there. It's a dangerous place that needs to go away. WalMart would be nicer and way more up to date. And we all know... WalMart brings in more businesses in the long run.

Azziz...clean up your university and hospital and facilities before you go trying to change our city. Get a grip. Haven't you realized all you are is a face for the media? Before it's over you'll be the scapegoat. Have you looked at some of your buildings??? Have you ever set foot in the Annex?? Do you know the conditions some of your employees work in?? Of course not, because you're too busy being concerned with building new stuff. Why not try improving and cleaning up what you have?

fiveobike1
65
Points
fiveobike1 03/07/12 - 10:46 am
1
0
Is this joker dillusional????

Is this joker dillusional???? when was he elected supreme ruler of Augusta.. Dr. Azziz lets face it, you are basically the principal of a school in Augusta.. you do not make policy, you do not veto bills, your opinion is not needed nor wanted in city affairs.. if we have a question about or need a flu shot we will go see you.. Geez this guy....

SAPCS
35
Points
SAPCS 03/07/12 - 10:53 am
1
0
Dr. Azziz--collect your

Dr. Azziz--collect your tuition money and hush. We have enough loud mouths in our county government. We don't need another one, thank you very much.

my.voice
4824
Points
my.voice 03/07/12 - 11:55 am
1
0
jamc1103
141
Points
jamc1103 03/07/12 - 12:33 pm
0
0
Just an FYI, MCG owns the

Just an FYI, MCG owns the land that Kroger sits on. Kroger leases that from MCG on a year to year basis. That is prob why they won't upgrade the store, because they know that MCG could come in at anytime and decide to build something else. Also, since it is owned by MCG, their police patrol that lot all of the time. So if crime is happening at that store, who is to blame for that?

my.voice
4824
Points
my.voice 03/07/12 - 01:33 pm
0
0
@jamc: Actually, its a joint

@jamc:
Actually, its a joint venture between the foundation and another group (Central Square LLC). If you look at the land records you can see for yourself. Kroger made a decision not to upgrade this store in recent years. They simply dont want to invest in the pocket. Perhaps a WalMart will put it out of its misery and MCG can do something good with this gateway.

ATAXPAYER2
0
Points
ATAXPAYER2 03/07/12 - 01:33 pm
0
0
jamc1103... you're right. No

jamc1103... you're right. No one really patrols that lot. And to be quite honest, the majority of MCG's police officers just do much of nothing other than checking buildings when an alarm goes off. Oh, sorry...I'm wrong...they do pull people over from time to time.
Kroger would be stupid to remodel because chances are when they do decide to leave...MCG still won't clean it up. Why give MCG free remodel work?
I say I may just start acting like Azziz... instead of spending hundreds of thousands to renew and refurbish whatj we already have, why not just blow millions on new stuff we really don't need? Everything he does reminds me of the type of people that go buy a new house because all theirs needs is a new roof. (You know what I mean?)
Wasteful. Absolutely wasteful.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 03/07/12 - 02:56 pm
1
0
who hasn't been attacked or

who hasn't been attacked or accosted in that Kroger parking lot? show of hands.

Compartmentalizing the City in this box and GHSU in that box and the TEE Center in another box, etc. isn't too effective. All have to work cooperatively for success. A productive and complete city isn't that way b/c one of its elements won out over another key element. They got that way b/c of a full court press style of developing working relationships between all appropriate parties. Dr. Z is doing what I would expect someone in his position to do. If there is something related to the success of the city his school was built in, then he has an obligation to become familiar with that, if not apart of the process.

my.voice
4824
Points
my.voice 03/07/12 - 03:27 pm
0
1
@David Parker - Hint: Getting

@David Parker - Hint: Getting accosted in a parking lot isnt a god thing. And Azziz doesn't want to be a PART of anything. He is the lone shot caller. He brings the term micro-management to a whole new level.

Fiat_Lux
15424
Points
Fiat_Lux 03/07/12 - 03:33 pm
0
0
I'd rather have a Walmart

I'd rather have a Walmart than that awful Kroger, even though I never have been attacked there. Also, having some more nearby restaurants would be nice as well, especially if they weren't fast food.

A very big caveat on the living space issue: it is perfectly terrible to be from out of town and have a loved one in the hospital here. There just are not good accommodations nearby. I doubt most could afford what Dr. Azziz envisions, but there is a definite need for decent hostelry in the medical center area. Perhaps as a bone tossed to the less fortunate, Dr. A. might consider adding temporary living space for those desperate to stay in town with a sick family member. Ronald McDonald House doesn't begin to meet the need.

dichotomy
32959
Points
dichotomy 03/07/12 - 04:09 pm
1
0
Dr. Azziz.....I'm not smart

Dr. Azziz.....I'm not smart enough to know the ins and outs of this deal but the fact of the matter is that it was an illegal closed door decision. I'm sure GHSU has an attorney. Sue the bejeebers out of us. We deserve it for having such stupid commissioners, mayor, administrator, and legal adviser. Maybe next time they will do it correctly.........aaw who the heck am I kidding.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 03/07/12 - 05:07 pm
1
0
@ your voice. What?!?! the

@ your voice. What?!?!

the point is, If Dr. Z double takes at a stop sign while driving, folks are going to read something into it and flip it into fodder. If the fellow wants to make sure the school's interests are protected to the Nth degree and you call that micro-managing then hire me up some more micro-managers.

Riverman1
83967
Points
Riverman1 03/07/12 - 05:39 pm
0
0
LL said, "RM, you're turning

LL said, "RM, you're turning into countyman. If the MCG Foundation builds a luxury hotel and restaurants down there, they're nothing more than real estate speculators. I'd rather have private businesses in private hands. This "public/private partnership" notion is nothing more than classic fascism. The polite buzz word for it today is "crony capitalism."

Ha...me countyman, now that's a low blow. But the foundation is a well respected private non profit that has given much to the state owned GHSU. If they build hotels and restaurants down there for GHSU, I'm sure they will also be open to the public. In addition they were apparently going to give the state the land for a continuing education center and an alumni building. You can call me what you want, but it's unfair to characterize the foundation in a negative way. Keep in mind, the foundation offered twice what Walmart is paying. Countyman...sheesh. :)

lovingthesouth72
1368
Points
lovingthesouth72 03/07/12 - 07:59 pm
0
0
Augusta does not need yet

Augusta does not need yet another Walmart, specially down on 15th street, where the local roads will not be able to handle all the traffic caused by such a store. The leaders of this community are, as a dear coworker of mine rightly said, dumber than dirt. Dr Azziz has a great plan to develop this city into something prosperous, and then these people gather behind closed doors, to hinder progress and make their decision. I feel bad for Dr Azziz that has to deal with all these leaders with no vision. But he is way smarter than they are and I am sure this will work out for the better.

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