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Mills District proposal will be considered in GRU master planning

Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 11:57 AM
Last updated 6:27 PM
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The University System of Georgia hasn’t embraced Augusta’s plans for a mills and cultural campus to support the expansion of Georgia Regents University, but supporters remain optimistic it will.

The historic Sibley Mill is under consideration to be restored and converted into educational and housing space for the expansion of the Georgia Regents University campus.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
The historic Sibley Mill is under consideration to be restored and converted into educational and housing space for the expansion of the Georgia Regents University campus.

According to a Sept. 17 letter from Chancellor Hank Huckaby released Monday by Mayor Deke Copenhaver, the system supports the development of a consolidated GRU campus centered on the health sciences campus, which will have “positive impact” on downtown Augusta and the riverfront.

A study by planning consultants Sasaki Associates, however, “did not recommend incorporating the Mills District” into the GRU campus, and Huckaby and Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz agreed, Huckaby wrote.

Last year, Copenhaver and the Augusta Commission revealed plans, months in development, to renovate two historic textile mills in the adjacent Harrisburg mill district to become support buildings for the newly consolidated university.

Spearheaded by the mayor’s Augusta Regional Collaboration Project, the plans also included a “cultural campus” scattered across existing downtown buildings, which the project director, Matthew Kwatinetz, last week termed an “arts and innovation campus.”

Commission members have since authorized $300,000 for the project to develop the extensive proposals, and an additional $100,000 to renovate a historic building in the Broad Street median downtown to serve as project headquarters and an incubator for the downtown arts and innovation community.

Although the University System hasn’t embraced the proposals and merely reasserts its plans to expand in an area adjacent to them, Huckaby said they “do have potential” to be “an important element in GRU’s future.”

For that reason, he said, the system has agreed to consider, in a comprehensive GRU master plan under development, “a broad range of opportunities, including the viability of incorporating the Mills District into the future campus development of GRU.”

Copenhaver viewed Huckaby’s overall response as positive, despite his unwillingness to commit to the mills proposal, and placed hope in the new master plan’s incorporating the mills early next year, the mayor said in an e-mail to the commission last week.

“This would allow us to help them create the next great American university,” Copenhaver said. “We are confident with further planning, GRU will come to the conclusion that the ideas that we have proposed are faster, cheaper and better than any other plan that we have seen so far.”

Copenhaver, who has made the campus development a priority of his final year in office, said Monday that he had met with Huckaby several times since the Sasaki study and believed the system desires to “work with the city in moving forward” with expansion plans.

“It’s positive overall, extremely positive that they are looking to focus on developing a consolidated campus in the urban core,” the mayor said. “That, to me, is the major point to take away. The mills will be part of what they look at in the master planning process.”

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 12:54 pm
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Summerville Campus???

Okay, so they don't want to use the mills at this time. But the line about a consolidated GRU campus around the Frog Hollow campus has me wondering. Do they intend to move the Summerville, undergrad school, down around the Frog Hollow campus?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 12:58 pm
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I'm Puzzled

To me, it is not the city of Augusta's responsibility to develop the Grooo campus. From the story:

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who has made the campus development a priority of his final year in office . . .

For goodness sake, Grooo has way more money through foundations, bequests, state funding, fund raising, etc. than the city of Augusta does. Augusta is struggling just to pave roads and clean out storm ditches. We Augusta taxpayers don't need to spend city money on developing Grooo's campus.

I think the Mayor should re-examine his priorities and take this one off the list.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 01:18 pm
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Mills campus= new businesses, tax base, population, etc.

“Where does it say they don't want to use the mills at this time?”

The city of Augusta only needs to concentrate on the tax credits and the multiple grants to help lower the cost of public money involved in the entire development. Many private businesses can easily be located on the Mills Campus which is another revenue source. The Broad street bus terminal should be sold to a private developer. Things similar to the Georgia Power desire to build a solar panel on the site and the $200,000 grant for Sibley Mill are needed when you're trying to accomplish something that will FOREVER change metro Augusta.

The Mills Campus is right next to the CBD, Medical District, Augusta Canal, future Walmart market shopping area, demolishing/renovation of the Kroger shopping center, Broad street terminal(can be sold to GRU or an private developer, Martha Lester school(residential), and the Kroc Center.

The potential for major gentrification of the Harrisburg neighborhood is absolutely tremendous. The empty buildings along Broad street in Harrisburg will become coffee shops, restaurants, etc.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 01:09 pm
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Frog Hollow

I wondered about that, too, RM. From the story (slightly edited):

. . . a Sept. 17 letter from Chancellor Hank Huckaby . . . [saying the Board of Regents] supports the development of a consolidated GRU campus “centered around the current Health Sciences campus,” which will have “positive impact” on downtown Augusta and the riverfront.

Okay, you have the Laney Walker buildings (including the old Gilbert Manor); you have the old Sears store; you have the Kroger store, which the MCG Foundation has publicly stated can be used by Grooo whenever they desire; and you now have the old Gardens and Golf Hall of Fame site. Perhaps that is what Huckaby means by "health sciences campus." It would be interesting to slowly expand downtown (not on the canal) while simultaneously downsizing in Summerville.

At some point the entire Summerville campus (they missed a good opportunity when they refused to name it Arsenal Campus) can revert to private hands. That's some seriously valuable real estate up there.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 01:14 pm
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Where?

Countyman asked, “Where does it say they don't want to use the mills at this time?”

Right here, in the story, we read:

A study by planning consultants Sasaki Associates, however, “did not recommend incorporating the Mills District” into the GRU campus, and Huckaby and Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz agreed, Huckaby wrote.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 01:17 pm
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They decided to include the

They decided to include the Mills campus into the 'master planning'... There's no point of including the Mills campus if you didn't have plans for them now. I don't think anybody expected to see any real traction until next year.

The 'health science' campus is the Medical District.

raul
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raul 10/15/13 - 01:18 pm
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Sounds like Huckabee saying

Sounds like Huckabee saying he will consider it in a master plan, gives Deke an out to say he didn't say no. Master plans certainly aren't written in concrete as evidenced by Augusta's Master plan. Remember that? Lake in Regency Mall, and a whole lot of pie in the sky. Enterprise Mill is great, maybe the city could interest the developer of that in Sibley Mill. I don't see GRU being that interested.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 01:30 pm
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The same people always have

The same people always have to be negative or pessimistic towards anything related to Richmond County.

Little Lamb... Where in the quote did you see that? How can you spin GRU including the Mills campus into the master planning?

Raul... The master planning cost 'money', and you don't include the Mills campus for no reason.. The lake at Regency Mall was already voted for in the latest splost. How can something approved by the local voters be considered pie in the sky? The owner of Enterprise Mill did at one time plan to buy the Sibley Mill, but a lot of work is needed.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 01:25 pm
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Nomenclature

Countyman posted:

The 'health science' campus is the Medical District.

Actually, Grooo now refers to it as "Health Sciences" campus. Perhaps Countyman could start using the new nomenclature.

And while he's at it, Countyman should stop referring to the Village at Riverwatch as "North Richmond." We've been calling that area "West Augusta" since before consolidation and before Countyman was born.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 01:27 pm
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Where?

Countyman, go back and read the story again. The quote I referenced is the third paragraph of Susan McCord's story.

Cocomommy
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Cocomommy 10/15/13 - 01:35 pm
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It's Easy as 1,2,3,4...

GREAT IDEA! All you have to do is:
1. Move a railroad running straight through the middle of "campus"
2. Clean up 100 years of pollution from factory work
3. Flatten property you don't own for parking.
4. Sell the Summerville Campus that has NEW buildings
5. Keep students out of the Canal
6. Move the huge confederate monument
7. Replace and redo all windows / build individual rooms for college kids that meet modern codes
...easy! Or you could use all of that money to provide a solid education.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 01:56 pm
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Quote

Little Lamb, go back and read the story again. Where in the quote does it say they don't plan on using the Mills Campus at this time? Also, what is your definition of 'this time' exactly mean. Nobody involved in the process actually thought construction would begin in the year 2013.

GRU already had their own plans for expansion and could have easily told the city to move on months ago. Nobody forced them to incorporate the Mills Campus into their master planning.

Cocomommy... Multiple tax credits and grants exist to help lower the cost involved during the process.. Private businesses are located on campuses across the US and they bring additional revenue opportunities.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 10/15/13 - 01:48 pm
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I'm with the naysayers!

What will GRU do with two broken down mills. Nothing but spend money on fixing up and repairs and try to figure out what to do with the space. countyman should find the Regents' audit on the amount of unused space the University System owns and then write one of his epistles about it! Oh! Not his side of the story. The audit would show that USGA has way more space than it will ever use.

raul
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raul 10/15/13 - 02:01 pm
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@SusanMcCord. Do you know how

@SusanMcCord. Do you know how much Matt Kwantinetz is being paid as a consultant?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 02:05 pm
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How?

Countyman posted:

How can you spin GRU including the Mills campus into the master planning?

They have agreed to "consider" including some areas on the canal because they are under pressure from Mayor Copenhaver to do so. As Raul said up above, it is a face saving measure for Copenhaver. Grooo can consider the costs vs. benefits (as Cocomommy did so well up above), then politely say, “Thanks, but no thanks” to the city of Augusta. Those mills are pretty, but they are dinosaurs that don't fit in with a modern, urban university campus.

I do hope Grooo expands downtown, but not on the canal property in Harrisburg. And as they expand, I hope they sell off property on the Hill.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 02:26 pm
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Strong metros have vibrant urban cores

Why do the naysayers always usually have to live outside of Richmond County? Who in their right mind can think vibrant suburbs can lead the way to prosperity?

I think Dichotomy, Nocnoc, and Little Lamb have had to experience the daily negative for so long they even start to buy in(RC residents).

The urban core is the most attractive place to recruit white collar office jobs other than probably West Augusta.

Little Lamb. Do you really believe GRU decided to include the Mills Campus because they felt local pressure? The same Board of Regents who decided on choosing the name Georgia Regents University over University of Augusta. The Save the A campaign had to become involved to make sure the word Augusta got included in the name.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 02:15 pm
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Cohesiveness

If I were Dr. Azziz, I would build a nice building that fits the university's needs on the Kroger property first, then start obtaining a strip of land along Fourteenth Street between the old Sears Building parcel and the GGHoF parcel. That way, you would have some semblance of a contiguous campus. I realize there will be several private property owners involved along Fourteenth Street, but the Board of Regents’ pockets are deep, very deep. Money talks, and BoR has a loud voice.

Grooo should keep the city at arms length as they prepare their strategy and their master plan. Grooo and BoR have a much better track record than does Fred (What, me worry?) Russell when it comes to land acquisition, land liquidation, and building construction.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 02:18 pm
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Mayor

Countyman posted:

The Save the A campaign had to become involved to make sure the word Augusta got included in the name.

Yeah, the Mayor was no help at all in that battle.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 02:19 pm
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The ARC is responsible for

The ARC is responsible for the Mills Campus proposal, and not Fred Russell..

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 02:26 pm
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Messes

Yeah, but Fred was responsible for a bunch of messes, from the Ruff House with insufficient parking to the TEE Center giveaway to Paul Simon to the Marriott parking deck "air rights" with the property sitting in private hands to the failure to close the Watermark deal on the city depot property to the new sheriff headquarters with no plan to demolish the mold-infested 401 Walton Way to the new library with no plans to sell or demolish the old library. The list is long.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 02:29 pm
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Pretty Plain to Me

"A study by planning consultants Sasaki Associates, however, “did not recommend incorporating the Mills District” into the GRU campus, and Huckaby and Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz agreed, Huckaby wrote."

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 02:39 pm
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It Is What It Is

It sounds like Deke better find another project for his last year. I mean even the master plan thing says they will consider the viability of the mills property is all.

"For that reason, he said, the system has agreed to consider, in a comprehensive GRU master plan under development, “a broad range of opportunities, including the viability of incorporating the Mills District into the future campus development of GRU."

This is plainly their intent: "According to a Sept. 17 letter from Chancellor Hank Huckaby released Monday by Mayor Deke Copenhaver, the system supports the development of a consolidated GRU campus “centered around the current Health Sciences campus,” which will have “positive impact” on downtown Augusta and the riverfront."

Actually, I liked the recommendation about branching out from the existing campus in town. However, I still don't get the part about consolidating the campus at Frog Hollow. Do they intend to abandon the Summerville campus? That's hard to believe and can't be what they meant.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 02:46 pm
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Consolidated

That's the way I would construe it, RM. Expand in a semi-contiguous manner from 15th and Laney Walker over to the GGHoF at 13th and Reynolds. As you expand, sell off any real estate you can at Summerville, bringing classrooms, offices, student center, etc. to Frog Hollow.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 02:50 pm
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Arsenal

I would think that St. Mary Catholic Church and Trinity Methodist Church would love to purchase some land from Grooo along Arsenal Avenue.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 02:58 pm
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Facts

The comments from just a few weeks ago claimed the university would never be interested with the proposal.

Now all of an sudden we have people trying to spin the university's decision to include the Mills campus into the master planning.

Which one is it exactly?

Why would any consultants for GRU recommend something unless they had all the details first? The master planning process will allow for everything to come out.

Little Lamb. Fred Russell is not behind the ARC and you can't blame him for creating the recession either(Watermakr).

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 03:06 pm
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More Facts

What comments from a few weeks ago are you talking about? Look, it doesn't bother me much one way or another other than recognizing the truth of what was said. They clearly said they don't want to use the mills property now. They said they will CONSIDER it in the future in a master plan. Deke leaves office in a year.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 03:18 pm
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Leaving Office

I hope he takes Kwatinetz with him.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 03:27 pm
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Facts

Multiple comments included yours claimed the University would never be interested. Where does it plainly say they don't want to use the Mills property now?

Who expected for them to use the mills in 2013?

The Mills Campus is NOW apart of the master planning and Chancellor Huckaby has already AGREED to put the Mills Campus in.

Little Lamb. Their would be no $172 million Starbucks, future Georgia Power building, and future announcement in the Corporate Park without Mr. Kwatinetz.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 03:28 pm
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Corporate

What and Where is "Corporate Park?"

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 04:54 pm
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Honestly, my only comments

Honestly, my only comments concerning the mills property and GRU were that there were not enough students to build housing. I also said they could use it for something else. Heck, I kind of wish they would use it, but I also like them branching out over town. If you remember that's always been my contention instead of moving more classes, etc. to the Wrightsboro Rd campus.

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