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Georgia Regents University keeps campus consolidation plans open

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A consultant ranked Au­gusta’s Mills District proposal last among options for the future expansion of Georgia Regents University. But university officials plan to start from scratch in an upcoming comprehensive master plan, which could put the mills back in play along with many other properties.

City officials are pushing the idea of redeveloping two historic textile mills into educational or housing space for the campus expansion of Georgia Regents University. Hand Out Photo  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
City officials are pushing the idea of redeveloping two historic textile mills into educational or housing space for the campus expansion of Georgia Regents University. Hand Out Photo

The study looked at three distinct university campuses each separated by two miles, a downtown health system and even foundation-owned real estate. The many parts in play leave the potential configuration of the consolidated campus, or campuses, wide open and have the potential for substantial change, including the sale or repurposing of substantial assets.

The city wants to renovate two enormous former textile mills on the Augusta Canal into facilities to support the university’s growth. Mayor Deke Copenhaver has said he’ll make the plan the focus of his final year. The city has funded Copen­haver’s Augusta Regional Col­lab­oration Project with $300,000 to advance the mill district proposal, along with several other projects, including a downtown arts and innovation district initiative.

Sasaki Associates’ Campus De­velopment Assessment Strat­egy offered a preliminary glimpse into the options, though GRU and city officials say the short-term study will carry little weight.

The scenario ranked highest by the study proposes consolidation of all activities around the Health Sciences campus downtown. That would mean “repurposing” the former Augusta State University campus in Summerville, selling former ASU student housing off Wrightsboro Road and retaining only the Forest Hills athletics campus, which includes Forest Hills Golf Course and Christenberry Fieldhouse.

“The long-term optimal outcome is for GRU to operate one consolidated campus (in addition to the Forest Hills athletics campus),” the study authors wrote. “The chief barriers are the recent Summerville (development), the replacement cost of Summer­ville facilities, and the market value of the Sum­merville campus.”

Located in the heart of Augusta’s historic residential district, the Summerville campus has enjoyed substantial physical development over the past two decades.

The study’s sole mention of the mills proposal – “the creation of a single consolidated residential zone with supporting amenities at the mills” – calls it the “least attractive” of the three scenarios.

However, the mills plan “would be an improvement over current conditions if the deal is appropriately structured and includes the satisfactory disposition of the Forest Hills housing,” according to Sasaki, the author of several studies for the state university system.

Relocating all Summerville facilities to the mills, also examined, wouldn’t work because the cost of replacing Summerville is “only justified if it results in a single campus,” the study says.

Despite the less-than-favorable treatment of the mills proposal, GRU Vice President of Fa­cilities Support Services Phil Howard said the plan remains an option as school officials begin anew the process of campus planning.

Plenty of property

GRU recently began a search for a consultant to conduct a comprehensive master plan for the consolidated university, to start next year and expected to last nine to 12 months. It has narrowed its list of candidates to four: Sasaki, Perkins & Will, ASG and The Smith Group, Howard said.

“The difference between this project and many of the other University System Master Plan­ning initiatives is we are actually starting this one from scratch because we are a new university,” Howard said.

Little will be off the table, and GRU has dozens of options, including vacant, system-owned land such as the 17-acre riverfront tract once home to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, Howard said.

“Certainly we have interest in the mills properties as a possible site for development,” Howard said. “But until we understand what our true needs are going to be and we get more definition around what we want to be as an enterprise, that will just be a consideration, as will be a lot of other properties around the city, some of which we own, some of which are adjacent, some of which are owned by foundations.”

Other options in play include university-
owned properties along 15th Street and the Medical College of Georgia Foundation-owned Kroger shopping center on 15th Street. If developed into GRU facilities, they would extend the campus nearly to the Augusta Canal edge of Harris­burg, where the mills are located, Howard said.

The mills proposal offers more for student life than the 1 million square feet available in Sibley and King mills, he said. That includes hydroelectric capabilities, a solar farm and nearly 50 acres of river- and canal-fronting greenspace already popular for recreation.

Work in progress

While the master planning process could embrace or eliminate the mills proposal in its first few months, what is needed now is for the city to provide more information about the proposal, and GRU to continue its assessment of its options and plans.

“We’re still working very closely with the city and trying to understand what their vision is a little bit better and how we might be able to dovetail into that if it works out that way,” Howard said. “We just don’t know at this point.”

He said the mills proposal will be given consideration like all the other ones.

“We’re going into this whole master planning with a very open mind,” Howard said. “We know that we are not going to get a different type of student than we have now without creating student life on campus. I think that will be the biggest game-changer for us.”

Matt Kwatinetz, the executive director of the ARC Project, echoed Howard’s sentiment about the study and said his group is helping develop a proposal and garnering support from Harrisburg, which remains a blighted area years after the mills closed.

“Right now we are very focused on convening the citizens of Harrisburg and trying to help them organize to determine what such a development could mean for the neighborhood and how they can participate in the vision for improved social services – health, education, jobs – without increases in taxes,” Kwatinetz said.

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Pops
14389
Points
Pops 10/26/13 - 06:10 pm
5
2
Sounds like a big ball of confusion

What we need is a great big ole study by one of these consulting firms to tell how much money needs to be spent.......

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/26/13 - 06:50 pm
6
3
Clears Up One Thing

"A consultant ranked Au­gusta’s Mills District proposal last among options for the future expansion of Georgia Regents University."

This at least clears up the confusion of what was previously said when some claimed the mills were going to be part of the master plan.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 10/26/13 - 07:47 pm
0
0
Riverman1
Unpublished

Yes, the consultant ranked Augusta Mills District proposal last, but apparently the mayor-in-chief thinks throwing $300,000.00 against the wall might somehow regenerate some interest. Perhaps he's right, but heck it's not his money. He went to the mat for the ball stadium and took a strike 3. Still got a couple of strikes left on the mill project though if you can trust the word of GRU (ugh) officials.

I've noticed the government, no matter local, state or federal just loves studies. Money is no object and no subject is off limits. This study is being spearheaded by a group that after hard consideration decided that GRU (ugh) was a great name for the consolidated campus.

Gage Creed
19399
Points
Gage Creed 10/26/13 - 09:08 pm
4
2
Somebody is going to have

Somebody is going to have some pooched out soup-coolers.... the expected future growth of Columbia County is shown to be be double that of Richmond County... We have been told so many times that the Gentry's are moving in and will bring those folks with the white collars.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 10/26/13 - 09:47 pm
1
8
The Mills is apart of the

The Mills is apart of the master planning process..

What expected growth?

Also, expected growth is related to previous growth from the past...

Richmond County is growing much faster in 2013(Cabela's, movie theater, H&M, Whole Foods, etc) compared to the previous decade.

Gage Creed
19399
Points
Gage Creed 10/26/13 - 09:31 pm
5
2
Do those rose colored glasses

Do those rose colored glasses alter the printed word?

Possibly if the recommendation is not in line with your thinking then is doesn't exist?

Typical...

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 10/26/13 - 09:50 pm
1
9
Facts

The mayor and chancellor have both said the mills were included in the master planning process, and Richmond County has already caught up with Aiken County in terms of growth rate...

The gentrification will put Richmond over Columbia very soon, and there's nothing else to discuss.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 10/26/13 - 09:58 pm
1
9
Facts

I clicked on the link at the bottom, and found out were the person is getting the future county growth rates from...

The fact remains their 'predictions' and not actual facts...

The irony is the same 'predictions' have Richmond County growing faster than every other county including Aiken, but the same person didn't mention that bit of news lol....

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 10/26/13 - 09:57 pm
0
6
double post...

double post...

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/26/13 - 10:00 pm
4
2
LOL

"and there's nothing else to discuss."

LOL

Gage Creed
19399
Points
Gage Creed 10/26/13 - 10:06 pm
6
2
FACTS are pesky things!

Then why was Columbia Counties growth show as double that of Richmond County? Is that just to much to bear? The topic to be avoided?

What part of "the creation of a single consolidated residential zone
with supporting amenities at the Mills, is the least attractive of the three." is difficult to understand?

If you have three alternatives and the one you champion comes in last...

No further discourse is necessary...

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/26/13 - 10:10 pm
5
2
Know what's amazing

You know what's amazing. The idea to close the Summerville campus. Wowza, that's some aggressive thinking. We need some follow-up stories on THAT.

Gage Creed
19399
Points
Gage Creed 10/26/13 - 10:37 pm
6
2
RM1... that closing the

RM1... that closing the Summerville Campus is a consideration is amazing... especially given all of the infrastructure that has been added in the recent years. It does seem to fall inline with the overall path to dissolve any and all remnants of ASU.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 10/26/13 - 11:14 pm
2
7
Facts

The comments at first were commenting how the Mills Campus wasn't included in the master planning process, and now the focus has shift to the old study... The previous study doesn't include all the facts associated with the Mills campus, and that's why the chancellor agreed to let the Mills campus be included in the new master planning process.

Why do some people think personal opinions somehow outweigh the facts that came from the mayor and chancellor?

What does the old study(the article clearly says the old study will carry little weight) have to do with the inclusion of the mills campus in the planning process?

''While the master planning process could embrace or eliminate the mills proposal in its first few months, what is needed now is for the city to provide more information about the proposal, and GRU to continue its assessment of its options and plans.''

How can the master planning process decide whether to embrace or eliminate the Mills unless their included in the 'process'?

The same few people continue to make the sarcastic remarks, but the facts back me up every single time.. I've been saying the growth rate of Richmond County would eventually surpass Aiken County and finally catch up to Columbia County in the near future. The same few people told me I wearing rose colored glasses, and one of the posters commeting on here told us Richmond County wasn't even growing.. They actually wanted us to believe Richmond County is the first county in the nation to attract a new movie theater(60,000 SQ. FT.), but the county's not growing.

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/27/13 - 04:53 am
3
2
Symbiotic Relationship

If the population of one county is stagnant, but the bordering county is one of the fastest growing in the nation, expect the stagnant county to attract business near the fast growing county. West Augusta and Columbia County fly as one. This is not a knock on Richmond County, but Columbia County is doing very well as we all know. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/27/13 - 05:01 am
4
2
Contiguous Campus Should be Rethought

Back to the idea of a new campus, I've long said the best idea was for the schools to spread out over the city and minimize the Wrightsboro Rd facility for athletics only (with one caveat I'll mention later). It appears that is going to happen. Where my previous statements differ from the current plan is I would expand by hopscotching out from both campuses instead of doing away with the Summerville campus. That's more practical, economical, immediate and has a positive effect on jumped areas. Abandoning the Summerville campus facilities would take decades.

As I've said many times, look at the College of Charleston for a model. A contiguous campus is impractical and not necessary in an urban environment. If a new gym is built for GRU it should be downtown instead of on Wrightsboro. That would be a major revitalization thrust.

Deke, please realize as of NOW there are simply no plans to use the mills. Of course that could change, but all the statements indicate that's unlikely. So let's concentrate on what we have going and if another opportunity of some kind comes up for the mills, jump on it. Don't miss opportunities trying not to give up on what, I agree, was a great idea.

You have to look at timelines of what could happen. Even if you can change the minds of GRU, a consolidation of campuses at the mill would be DECADES a way. Do you want to let that property sit empty that long?

seenitB4
97591
Points
seenitB4 10/27/13 - 07:53 am
6
1
and there's nothing else to discuss.

Well now....Let's just close up & go home now...ctyman has spoken!

Doesn't matter if this is the comments section...nope....haha..hohaho.

If nothing else...some are good for a good laugh(at times).

AugustaProf
138
Points
AugustaProf 10/27/13 - 09:59 am
4
1
Page 22

If you look at page 22 of the study presentation attached to the story, you'll see an option that shows a contiguous campus that includes the Mills. This is (IMO) why the Mills are still potentially part of the discussion for the master plan. Assuming you can figure out a way to make this pedestrian friendly (tunnel under Calhoun or limit access to 15th street maybe), then this is a beautiful plan. It would take a major commitment from GRU, the state and the city, but the result would be something pretty special for Augusta. Unfortunately with the way the budget is being shepherded lately, it is hard to imagine something like this getting much beyond a PowerPoint slide.

But hey, lets put on our pretend hats and imagine a fictional future. Student life is concentrated on the completely transformed 100-acre tract of land on the north side of Calhoun (we'll call it the "Harrisburg Hundred" instead of the "Mills Campus" because it is one campus in our fictional universe). This area has been stripped of ugly and littered with parks, green space, etc. The mills are just two of a number housing and student activity spaces. But not too many...our fictional campus is a model for urban transformation. Great lifestyle space and proximate both to the academic space on the other side of Calhoun and to downtown nightlife.

Imagine the south side of Calhoun where we didn't just reuse an ancient Sears building and a Kroger shopping center. But one where this area too was gutted and (gasp) made into something other than a hideous eyesore.

Imagine a 15th street between Broad and Walton that has been narrowed and closed off to all but pedestrian and bus traffic. Hard to fathom even 10 years ago, but traffic patterns have shifted dramatically with the Riverwatch/St. Sebastian work. Easy to see how 12th street could be enhanced to handle the increased Calhoun runoff.

I feel like John Lennon with all of these "imagines," but it can be fun.

seenitB4
97591
Points
seenitB4 10/27/13 - 10:21 am
1
1
Atlanta Beltline/Beltway

http://www.tagatlanta.com/2012/05/atlanta-beltway-project-a-healthy-way-...

At one time this was just an idea too...but it is alive & well today.....Augusta could also deliver the same greatness if they put the right minds to work on this....it takes working together & I fail to see that going on with the commish........also, they realized they needed a dedicated police presence at work on the Beltway.....it can be done with the right people.

Gage Creed
19399
Points
Gage Creed 10/27/13 - 10:44 am
2
1
Facts are amazing when you make them up!

Amazing how snarky the comments get when you talk about cutting off the cronyism and backdoor deals...

Little Lamb
49078
Points
Little Lamb 10/27/13 - 10:45 am
4
1
Summerville

If the land that was the former ASU were woodland instead of fully developed with structures that are useful only as educational facilities, then that land would have residential real estate agents salivating. There would soon be million-dollar mansions on the property.

But, alas, the cost to demolish the educational structures would wring all the profit out of subdividing and selling the land.

Also, the historical nature of the arsenal area would preclude its being developed as anything other than an historical site.

So, I do not foresee Grooo’s Summerville campus as being sold off in my lifetime.

Little Lamb
49078
Points
Little Lamb 10/27/13 - 10:49 am
4
1
Prohibitive

Speaking of costs, it is indeed the obscene costliness of demolishing and/or renovating the mill area on the canal that prevents the mayor’s dream from coming true. Yes, the Board of Regents has hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal, but when they see what the bill will be for demolishing or remodeling the mill area; their checkbook will become padlocked.

Shame on Fred Russell and Dayton Sherrouse for their taking the second mill away from Avondale. It was a functioning power plant providing electricity through private means. Now that the Canal Authority owns it, no one knows what to do with it.

Sweet son
11649
Points
Sweet son 10/27/13 - 12:12 pm
6
1
Don't like Mr. Howard's statement: "we are a new university."

Yes, you are a 'new university' Mr. Howard and Dr. Cool Ricky Ricardo Azziz.

You guys have raped Augusta out of two of it's institutions of higher learning which both had rich histories.

I hope you are happy with yourselves. We native folks don't like you or any of your plans!!

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 10/27/13 - 01:52 pm
2
3
Facts

How is Richmond County stagnant when the county gained around the same number of people compared in Aiken in the 2012 estimate?

A couple of days ago the same person commented that Richmond County wasn't even growing lol..

Is Richmond County stagnant or not growing?

I'm also very positive the new residential construction in North Richmond/West Augusta and the homes being renovated in Summerville/Forest Hills play an important role in attracting new commercial developments.

mybaskett
239
Points
mybaskett 10/27/13 - 02:03 pm
2
3
Poor Countyman

Countyman always seems to get beat up by most of the commenters. But, he is usually right. For those that may not live or work in the Downtown area, there are a lot of small changes that are taking place that people are not paying attention to. There was a time that many people were moving away from downtown. You may be surprised at how many are trying to find property closer to downtown.

Dr. Azziz was paid to do a job. The Establishment politicians and Citizens of Augusta will lose. This project is bigger than Augusta Commissioners.
Naysayers should prepare for change, because it is coming. Positive change.

As for which county is growing faster CC or RC, as it relates to business in my opinion RC. As for families, probably CC, once again my opinion.

I only go to CC to shop occasionally. Excited about the Home Goods and the DSW. Give me a Pottery Barn and PB teen; I would never have to shop online again. Either way both Counties win. You can't tell people who live out of town that you live in CC, without mentioning it's near Augusta. So let's quit bickering about it.

Gage Creed
19399
Points
Gage Creed 10/27/13 - 02:49 pm
2
3
@mybaskett

"You may be surprised at how many are trying to find property closer to downtown." And you Sir/Madame may be surprised at how many are running away as fast as possible from any thing connected to downtown Augusta.

So you are in lock step with a project that is not wanted by the voters? Really? Thank you comrade! (You may want to rethink that statement.)

Let's talk about 30901 or the CBD as a percentage of the Metro and then discuss why the natives are restless...

Countyman typically gets called out because of his embellishments, also his never having met a project that spends public funds that he does not embrace. Most see him as a mouthpiece for the cabal.

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/27/13 - 02:57 pm
3
2
Hey, I Love Augusta

Hey, I love Augusta. It is what it is. My one letter to the editor was about keeping the hospitals downtown. It is the flagship city of the CSRA with two important features... the college and medical in all forms. The demographics may be that of a poor Detroit, but with luck the metro area can keep it afloat.

Keeping this on subject, y'all recall what I said when some doubted me. Do NOT expand to the Wrightsboro Rd. campus. Hopscotch out from ASU and MCG, hopefully, toward each other, but that's not a requirement.

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/27/13 - 03:58 pm
2
1
Poor Countyman

Poor Countyman...interesting description.

Pg 22 has 21 before.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 10/27/13 - 04:06 pm
1
2
Facts

The person accusing me of embellishments is trying to portray the majority of people don't want a project, but they don't even live in Richmond County. How can possibly know what the residents in RC are feeling?

We have another person telling people they love Augusta, but then compares the demographics of Augusta to Detroit. The median income of Detroit is around $26,000......

What parts of Columbia County are much richer than West Augusta, North Richmond, Summerville, and Forest Hills?

The entire metro area of Detroit lost population when the area fell on hard times(the city is turning this around now)... If Augusta really had the demographics of Detroit, then Columbia County would automatically be one of the hardest counties affected in the metro... Almost 30,000 people commute daily from CC into RC..

Riverman1
93717
Points
Riverman1 10/27/13 - 04:19 pm
2
0
Define North Richmond and the

Define North Richmond and the neighborhoods it comprises and maybe I would have an idea of its income level.

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