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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
86791
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 03:38 pm
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Countyman, don't deceive

Countyman, don't deceive yourself. Huckaby agreed to put it in the master plan TO BE CONSIDERED. It is not in the master plan for expansion plans at this time. Huckaby says their plans are to consolidate at Frog Hollow. Of course, that could change.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 03:39 pm
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Consultants

Countyman asked:

Why would any consultants for GRU recommend something unless they had all the details first?

It's done all the time. Consultants make their recommendations based on the facts they can gather within the time frame they are allotted. No one ever has all the facts, especially when you are talking about future development plans.

countyman
20581
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countyman 10/15/13 - 04:04 pm
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Fact not opinion

This is not my personal opinion, but actual fact.

The Master planning now involves working alongside of the city on the Mills Campus proposal..

The mayor released the email to the public due to the Chancellor's decision to include the Mills campus in the master planning process.

tckr1983
360
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tckr1983 10/15/13 - 03:57 pm
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I'm pretty sure the title of

I'm pretty sure the title of the article says it all, does it not? There is no promise of anything from anyone, only a consideration from here on out.

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 04:00 pm
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Help

I am disturbed by this revelation from the story up above. Speaking of the city's master plan involving the two mills on the canal,

. . . 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.

The city should certainly not put up any roadblocks to Grooo, but it is not the city's place to help Grooo financially. Grooo has millions of dollars in federal research grants, more millions in state subsidies, more millions in alumni contributions, more millions in tuition payments. Surely they don't need our city property tax money, when so many of us are struggling to pay those taxes.

countyman
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countyman 10/15/13 - 04:25 pm
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Title

TCKR1983.... Actually the title of the article could be very misleading... Some people might take the word 'consider' and think the university is still deciding whether or not to include the Mills campus in the planning process.

The whole purpose of the email released from Deke was to show the Chancellor decided to begin the master planning process that now includes the Mills proposal.

It's similar to the recent title 'Revitalization not attracting private investment'..

Somebody would never believe that Laney Walker/Bethlehem had already managed to attract $6 million in private funds based on the title of the article.

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 04:23 pm
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^^^^^

I say it is the post up above that is spinning things, now.

countyman
20581
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countyman 10/15/13 - 04:30 pm
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Spin??

What exactly did I spin? Are you denying the chancellor recently asked to begin the master planning process that includes the Mills campus?

I always make sure to separate from personal opinions from the facts unlike so many other's who comment on here.

Riverman1
86791
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 04:36 pm
4
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Well, one thing we do know is

Well, one thing we do know is the current plan is to consolidate the campus at the Frog Hollow site. What in the world does that mean? A slow move from Summerville as LL suggests? I wonder if that's a misunderstanding of some kind?

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 04:36 pm
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Read

Ms. McCord's headline is a reasonable lead-in for what has been written. Here is the text from paragraph 8 above:

For that reason, he [Huckaby] 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.”

Huckaby said they would consider incorporating this nebulous "Mills District" into future campus development. He did not say they were committed to incorporate it.

Riverman1
86791
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 04:39 pm
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Parks?

Various kinds of parks would work well with the mills sites since GRU doesn't want them in the foreseeable future. Don't let them just sit there like the GGHOF.

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 04:51 pm
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Arts?

This Matt Kwatinetz is an artsy kind of guy. nocnoc gave us a link the other day to a failed arts/government project he pitched in Seattle. From the story above we learn:

The mayor’s Augusta Regional Collaboration Project, . . . include 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 [the former Chamber of Commerce building] to serve as project headquarters and an incubator for the downtown arts and innovation community.

If Grooo gets into this arts campus downtown, they can move the college of fine arts from the Summerville campus downtown to the Frog Hollow campus, freeing up real estate in Summerville to be sold to the general public for housing, business, churches, etc.

Riverman1
86791
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 04:59 pm
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There's already an arts'

There's already an arts' initiative for the downtown area. Kwatinetz could be acting in a way that would harm the present arts community initiative.

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 05:01 pm
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Good Point

That's a good point, RM. But Kwatinetz has the mayor's backing. That's dangerous.

Riverman1
86791
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 05:23 pm
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Since Grooo doesn't want them...

Since Grooo doesn't want them, how about give the mills to Paine College? I bet the Commission would go along with that....seriously, again.

countyman
20581
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countyman 10/15/13 - 05:38 pm
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Facts

The facts are the master planning process now involves GRU working along side of the city on the Mills Campus.

This was not the case before and people can now understand why the mayor is excited.

dpatt.marine1
71
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dpatt.marine1 10/15/13 - 05:41 pm
1
2
I say move all operations and

I say move all operations and classes to both the Forest Hill and Health Sciences campuses and turn the old Summerville Campus into national war park.

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 05:47 pm
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Conflict

I wonder whether the mayor has a family member with a financial interest in the Mills District project?

Riverman1
86791
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Riverman1 10/15/13 - 05:53 pm
3
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A very enlightening thread of

A very enlightening thread of comments. Heh. The bottom line is we still have these mills properties and don't have a clue what to do with them.

LL, they own everything else downtown...probably.

dpatt.marine1
71
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dpatt.marine1 10/15/13 - 06:09 pm
0
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On a serious note I can see

On a serious note I can see some like a national war or memorial park. It would be a massive attraction for the area, and by moving all operations to two campuses it would cut cost and improve the overall campus feel. Not to mention the new structures that would be constructed, imagine a larger performing arts center that both the city and university could share right on the riverfront. That sort of feel coupled with the growth and expansion that will come to Paine College will create an atmosphere in downtown Augusta that folks only dream of.

soapy_725
43757
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soapy_725 10/15/13 - 06:22 pm
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Construction profits funded by taxpayer $$$. Deke's vision.
Unpublished

It is the sole purpose of his tenure as "public servant" in Augusta. He is the front man for the "organization". He is being groomed for a shot at Congress and even more $$$ for the "organization". So he is silly and a wimp. He is making money each and ever day on the back of the CSRA taxpayers. N. Augusta is not exempt. The "money people" live in Aiken County and Columbia County. The gravy train is very large.

soapy_725
43757
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soapy_725 10/15/13 - 06:23 pm
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Kingdom Building with taxpayer dollars. Contractor Profits.
Unpublished

Kingdom Building with taxpayer dollars. Contractor Profits.

soapy_725
43757
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soapy_725 10/15/13 - 06:31 pm
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Are the Boardman's selling property to the City of Augusta? WHO?
Unpublished

WHO? They are philanthropists, so they should be allowed to do anything.

soapy_725
43757
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soapy_725 10/15/13 - 06:32 pm
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No wonder the blacks are suspicious of the white money men. They
Unpublished

are right to be suspicious of the "organization"

soapy_725
43757
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soapy_725 10/15/13 - 06:33 pm
0
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More property that can't make a private profit. Sold to the tax
Unpublished

payers of ARC. It is the way of of the 21st century.

Little Lamb
46859
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Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 09:41 pm
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2
Performing Arts

When you go to a performing arts center to see a concert or a play, you go inside. You cannot see the river. We already have an amphitheater with a beautiful view of the river. A performing arts center behind the levee would be a waste of riverfront property.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 10/16/13 - 09:05 am
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Seems like a good thread to pose again....

How is the progress on the Cancer Research facility? 50 or 100 million allocated for it now?

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 10/16/13 - 09:08 am
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LL's comment

Nail meet head. Getting downtown integrated with the College of Liberal Arts is essential for the College to grow and conversely, downtown rebirth.

Brad Owens
4715
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Brad Owens 10/16/13 - 10:10 am
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Denial...

Despite the fact they GRU says that this is not their focus and that they want to build near the existing campus (read that as they are NOT going to support this project) the "supporters remain optimistic.." Yeah, I'm sure they are..

Riverman1
86791
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Riverman1 10/16/13 - 10:47 am
1
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Brad, yep, we see the truth

Brad, yep, we see the truth here. I mean if Huckaby had been any less enthusiastic about the mills it would have been a resounding NOOOO! Now we only get a no at this time and we'll think about it in the future. Deke is a trip. Did not the city already put out some money to work on this idea? It seems like it did. It appears it's wasted if they did.

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