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City gets little response to campus proposal

Downtown areas cited in proposal

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Artist rendering shows mill properties on left of the Augusta Canal, Kroc Center on right.
Saturday, April 13, 2013 9:16 PM
Last updated Sunday, April 14, 2013 10:23 AM
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While it has seen little more than an acknowledgement by Georgia Regents University officials, the city of Augusta has proposed a vast plan to develop the GRU campus into one of the world’s “most iconic, beautiful and innovative,” according to project documents.

The plan, presented to the GRU President Ricardo Azziz’s cabinet March 25, calls for a partnership of the city, University System Board of Regents and private industry to develop numerous facilities across Augusta’s urban core, many using existing buildings.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the city’s proposal was its offer of the historic Sibley and King mills – about 1 million square feet on 50 acres – for the campus expansion expected as Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University are consolidated into GRU.

A map of the “urban core district potential” shows the new campus growing along Augusta Canal from existing GRU holdings south of the canal to the Savannah River, taking in the mills and several other properties.

The proposal also calls for GRU to acquire several blocks east of 13th Street between the canal’s second level and the riverfront subdivision Rivers Edge.

The “mills campus,” complete with the mills’ existing hydroelectric capacity, would be the first of its kind, according to the proposal.

Outcomes for Harrisburg, the blighted area that housed mill workers for decades, are “safety, education and health,” and capitalize on existing recent investment – Richmond County Board of Education’s new $10 million school and the $90 million Kroc Center.

The plans don’t stop there: The mills campus is one of four “catalytic anchors” girding a plan supporters say could double the population and cut unemployment and commercial vacancies in half in the city’s urban core.

Another anchor is the proposed “downtown cultural grad school” scattered through existing buildings east of the mills along Broad and Reynolds streets, to include a graduate program in urban redevelopment, art space to house numerous artists in residence and several theaters, including a new performing arts center on city-owned riverfront property at Fifth and Reynolds streets.

The proposal was developed for the city by Matthew Kwatinetz, the executive dir­ector of the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project, an entity created by Mayor Deke Copenhaver last year with city and private funds. Kwatinetz came from the real estate consulting firm that selected Augusta for Starbucks’ new soluble products plant under construction.

The plan’s biggest cheerleaders have been Copenhaver and commissioners Mary Davis and Donnie Smith, who were part of the delegation that presented the proposal to Azziz’s cabinet, but officials say the proposal has full support of the 10-member commission and Augusta Canal Authority, which owns the mills and manages the national heritage area around
the mills.

Though the mayor and commissioners say their proposal was well-received, there has been little response from Azziz or the University System Board of Regents, bes­ides a campus letter from Azziz complimenting the city’s commitment to the success of the consolidated university.

“My team and I greatly appreciate the kind words and compelling vision of our Mayor and of our commission, and look forward to future dialogue about these ideas and many others as we move to expand our academic offerings, campus experiences, and eventually, our footprint,” Azziz wrote. “We have informed the USG staff about the city’s proposal and we will make every effort to keep you informed if and when plans progress.”

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Riverman1
93254
Points
Riverman1 04/14/13 - 05:09 am
4
2
I get the feel Azziz is

I get the feel Azziz is saying it's a good idea, but the USG staff (that's the infamous Board of Regents, folks) is saying when they have the money in about 50 years when our grandchildren can use their hover craft cars on the river. Another study to put up there on the shelf where the sun only reaches it in beams of light through the blinds in the dust filled air.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/14/13 - 08:02 am
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Exactly

Yeah, Riverman. The last paragraph tells the story. Some people produce fancy books with beautiful watercolor pictures showing a fanciful campus scattered all over town and call it a "plan." The truth is, the plan didn't come with any money. Azziz cannot merely wave his arms and make the buildings appear. He's got a school to run.

countyman
21623
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countyman 04/14/13 - 08:49 am
2
3
Dr. Azziz realizes the

I'm positive the development will come to fruition. Dr. Azziz realizes the potential, and only wants to have the best product.

The same thing on the GGHF site, and development near Kroger.

Littlelamb. The plan includes both private and public money.

my.voice
5159
Points
my.voice 04/14/13 - 08:48 am
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0
You mean they aren't moving

You mean they aren't moving students in this weekend? Humph.

countyman
21623
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countyman 04/14/13 - 08:58 am
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3
In due time

My voice.. Good point

Different people from around the state have toured the facility. I didn't expect to hear much, because we still don't have the concrete plans for the GGHF site.

Gage Creed
19378
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Gage Creed 04/14/13 - 09:34 am
4
2
All the more reason to vacate

All the more reason to vacate Lake Olmstead stadium eh? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain dear taxpayer.

The cabal still has profits to be taken and taxes to be raised!

soapy_725
44097
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soapy_725 04/14/13 - 10:11 am
0
0
Remember the artist's conception
Unpublished

of the little village behind Kroger in Evans(towne). A min Central Park. The no vehicle zone. The little shops. The expansive green space for dog walking, children running, two on two football, picnicking, laying in the sun on a blanket, Frisbee, kite flying, just green space, green grass that most citizens can't afford any more, green space that is so "today". Hey, why have a green space when we can put some green construction money in our friends pockets.

soapy_725
44097
Points
soapy_725 04/14/13 - 10:09 am
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little response to campus proposal?
Unpublished

Obviously someone did not poll the asphalt makers, concrete makers, developers, realtors and contractors. They are definitely interested in every piece of vacant land in the ARC of No Covenant.

Little Lamb
48871
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Little Lamb 04/14/13 - 12:35 pm
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Plan

Countyman posted:

The plan includes both private and public money.

Yes, that is what Susan McCord's story said. But keep in mind that the plan is only this luxurious book they published and gave to Azziz and the Regents - - - the book with the beautiful watercolor paintings as pictured above. The plan brings with it no mention of funding the actual construction, repair, remodeling, maintenance and operation of the new facilities. You can bet there will be plenty of private hands out to take some of the construction money, but the funding will be 100% government money.

I wish Ms. McCord had given us the cost of producing the plan and what the public/private split was.

countyman
21623
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countyman 04/14/13 - 02:35 pm
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2
PassingOnBy
369
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PassingOnBy 04/14/13 - 03:16 pm
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Pretty books

That's for show, LL. I can guarantee the average Joe around here wouldn't have a clue as to what he's looking at if you showed him blueprints and stepped budgets/expenditures/funding source--even with a map with arrows and notes and 8x10 color glossies.

PassingOnBy
369
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PassingOnBy 04/14/13 - 03:18 pm
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It's a nice idea

However, they need to get it going sooner rather than later. All the bad blood over the mergers and name changes and service changes need to be overcome in order to get students willing to come to whatever the university will be called down the road.

Gage Creed
19378
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Gage Creed 04/14/13 - 06:10 pm
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Interesting that the City of

Interesting that the City of Augusta is embarrassed by the "Save the A" campaign, yet has no reservations in bringing in a hired gun like Matthew Kwatinetz.....

Forgive me, I was lost again.(Note to self, KISS...follow the money!)

nocnoc
49121
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nocnoc 04/14/13 - 07:53 pm
2
1
Maybe they want us to GIVE IT TO THEM

After all they dropped Augusta, maybe they don't understand who the
Mayor is of a Town they have NO PART OF anymore.

AugustaProf
138
Points
AugustaProf 04/14/13 - 08:31 pm
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Funding

There are plenty of ways these projects are funded using private sources. Firstly, philanthropic donations are quite frequently used as primary or secondary funding sources for capital investments. Second, tuition and fees can be used--this is the private "half" of the University (much more than half now that state funding has been slashed so severely). Thirdly, private investors can build properties and lease them back to the University, thus shouldering the risk and debt burden.

And of course, land swaps and outright donations of land/buildings/labor often are made as a win/win for developers and speculators who own nearby properties (tax deduction + increase remaining property values). Given the abysmal property values in the area, I'd guess this last option may prove fruitful. Check the records and find the largest land owners in the CBD (and Harrisburg if such exist). I'm thinking these folks will be scrambling to invest in this campus and real potential for making their property values skyrocket. This isn't building some touristy botanical garden attraction or gimmicky condo/mall monstrosity and hoping it'll spark additional development. This is creating an institution that will anchor downtown Augusta for decades to come and WILL spark major development and growth in that area and beyond.

Or just threaten to build high-rise dorms in Summerville and see if Hill money starts pouring into the coffers.

Gage Creed
19378
Points
Gage Creed 04/14/13 - 09:01 pm
1
1
There's that WILL

There's that WILL again...does countyman have an alter ego?
AugustaProf, you may want to do a few soundings for philanthropic support, many in the community feel put out with all things GRU.
Weren't residents led to believe the endless cornucopia of state funds would make this endeavor a slam dunk for the community? What happened?
I was always told if you threaten, you better be willing to back up the threat.

my.voice
5159
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my.voice 04/14/13 - 09:37 pm
1
0
There will be little public

There will be little public support for anything GRU is involved in for years to come. This nonsense with the combined campuses and then the multiple, history stripping, name changes have done more damage than anything in a long while here in Augusta. The BOR has polarized these historic institutions from their rooted bases.

AUGUSTA IS STILL HERE, AZZIZ.......

itsanotherday1
48157
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itsanotherday1 04/14/13 - 11:20 pm
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1
"There will be little public support for anything GRU is involv"

I hope people don't cut their noses off just to spite their faces.

countyman
21623
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countyman 04/14/13 - 11:55 pm
1
2
Old

The same kind of comments every single day get real old rather quickly.

The momentum is too much, and everything will fall into place by 2015. The proposal made it this far, because of the Board of Regents/Governor.

Riverman1
93254
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Riverman1 04/15/13 - 06:56 am
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Are we all commenting on the same article

Are we all commenting on the same article?

The headline says, "City gets little response to campus proposal"

Little Lamb
48871
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Little Lamb 04/15/13 - 07:22 am
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Timeline

Dr. Azziz wrote in his campus letter:

. . . as we move to expand our academic offerings, campus experiences, and eventually, our footprint. . . .

He has his priorities straight. He has got to convert the commuter college into an actual university that offers graduate degrees. That will require effort and much money, but it will not require new brick and mortar. It will be a difficult balancing act to raise academic standards and to raise entrance requirements without deep-sixing enrollment.

Do you remember the Chronicle article from last year where Drs. Azziz and Kenny commented on the notion that ASU is easy to get into, hence difficult to graduate from; while GSHU is difficult to get into, hence easy to graduate from? Azziz's challenge it to make the undergraduate school of Grooo difficult to get into.

All this stuff from the Mayor about a scattered downtown campus a la SCAD, and all this stuff about taking over and renovating buildings that are over a hundred years old are distractions from what Azziz must do quickly. The buildings and the renovations and the campus expansions must naturally come behind changing the academics. The Mayor is naive and selfish in whining about Azziz's not dancing to the Mayor's hornpipe playing.

Riverman1
93254
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Riverman1 04/15/13 - 07:30 am
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LL, very realistic and true.

LL, very realistic and true.

AugustaProf
138
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AugustaProf 04/15/13 - 10:12 am
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Brick and mortar

LL, you are correct that the ultimate challenge is increasing enrollment and raising the ASU entrance standards up a few notches concurrently and without imploding. But you are missing major points on how this can be achieved if you think it requires no new "brick and mortar."

1) ASU was at capacity in terms of student bodies-in-seats, parking, faculty office space, etc.
2) GRU can't attract and retain the best students as a commuter campus in a mid-sized town--we NEED student housing, amenities, and significant supporting infrastructure to improve student-life
3) GRU can't attract world-class academics without better facilities and a significantly reduced teaching load--we NEED better facilities for both teaching and research and more office space to support more faculty
4) GRU needs to grow both number of programs and number of students--we NEED more academic buildings to even consider this
5) We can't grow much in Summerville--it is land locked and expansion there very expensive
6) We can't sensibly just build new stuff anywhere--we NEED a master plan to grow efficiently and effectively and we need it very soon
7) All of this requires commitment of money, resources, and will power from many different sources, both public and private

If the Board feels that we can succeed in this merger without new facilities, then we have already failed. Fortunately, they don't and they ARE committing resources to this. "Endless cornucopia?" Of course not. Hundreds of millions for a new Dental School, Academic Medical Center, Cancer Center, renovated old Dental School...not chump change.

We've seen nothing at the old ASU, yet. But that is understandable; they won't commit anything to directionless growth of the old Summerville campus. All of our growth plans to date have been as an independent, 3rd-tier state school. Taking a breath to plan around our new reality and to get it right is necessary.

Nobody liked (or likes, really) the name and we all wish our president were a bit (lot) more politically astute. But most folks will, in fact, choose to preserve the nose despite a slightly irksome face. The city understands this and this is why they are committing so many resources now to try to help GRU grow. The fact that one month later, the Augusta Chronicle has not yet heard trumpets blaring from on high announcing the new master plan for GRU based on the city's offer--well, sorry, I'm guessing these multi-billion dollar, twenty-year plans take more than a few weeks to commit to.

Riverman1
93254
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Riverman1 04/15/13 - 11:54 am
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1
A Few Skeptical Points

I’m not necessarily negative about the plans, but I do have some points that may put the skepticism of some of us in perspective. First, let me ask, how does this plan fit in with the other growth plans we’ve seen over the years?

Keep in mind, the new dental school and other MCG buildings were in the works far before this merger of the schools was considered so that has nothing to do with the merger.

As far as ASU being overcrowded, hasn’t the student population growth been negligible for years now? Didn’t the student population actually decrease recently? How are you going to fix that numerical problem? You say build it and they will come. I believe you first need the students.

Riverman1
93254
Points
Riverman1 04/15/13 - 12:00 pm
1
1
How To Help An Undergraduate School

I'm not sure what they do now, but I knew a college that guaranteed students who successfully completed their undergraduate work admission to the graduate programs of the same university. This included the medical, dental and law schools. It did wonders for their application numbers and the quality of the students. Think about that ASU-MCG-GRU.

Little Lamb
48871
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Little Lamb 04/15/13 - 02:55 pm
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Contributions

AugustaProf posted:

All of this requires commitment of money, resources, and will power from many different sources, both public and private.

Now that Obama has rope-a-doped the Congress into raising income tax rates on the 2% richest American taxpayers, they will likely not be so keen in contributing to charities.

Little Lamb
48871
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Little Lamb 04/15/13 - 03:00 pm
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Partridge

I wonder if Matthew Kwatinetz put the Partridge Inn in his plan? It's going up on the auction block any day now.

Gage Creed
19378
Points
Gage Creed 04/15/13 - 07:05 pm
1
0
This is so laughable when you

This is so laughable when you consider the source...."The same kind of comments every single day get real old rather quickly."

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