The Augusta Regional Collaboration Project is officially backing down from a proposal to incorporate two shuttered textile mills into the campus of Georgia Regents University.
The project, founded by Mayor Deke Copenhaver, spent more than $300,000 in city funds to develop the proposal. It blames its change of direction on voters’ defeat of a sales tax package in May.
“Without SPLOST VII, it could no longer recommend that Georgia Regents University plan major campus expansion for the (mills) district at this time,” project director Matt Kwatinetz said in a news release issued Thursday evening.
Had voters approved the tax plan, the project was to receive $5.25 million from revenue bonds issued in conjunction with the tax package to acquire nearby land and create a campus contiguous with GRU’s downtown facilities.
A GRU planning document specified that the university would abandon its University Village apartments, demolish 220 units of medical student housing and would need 1,200 beds of new housing by 2018. The project intended to respond to GRU’s request for proposals to provide half of those beds at the mills site.
University officials, still working through a master planning process for the consolidated university, never
openly showed interest in the “mills
campus” proposal, and a study ranked campus expansion around the mills the lowest of three options.
Kwatinetz and Copenhaver
aren’t giving up on redevelopment in and around the historic Sibley and
King mills, located in Harrisburg.
“ARC will continue to advocate for the mills as one of the most promising development opportunities in Richmond County,” Kwatinetz said.
Copenhaver said that with “all the economic game-changers now happening in Augusta, I remain confident in the eventual development of the mills district.”
Kwatinetz said any GRU expansion downtown was positive, and that the project intends to continue its other focus on a downtown campus, now termed the “culture and innovation district.”
The project has spent city funds on renovations of the vacant chamber of commerce building in the Broad Street median. A recent request for tenants generated more than an dozen applications, and a first round of names selected will be released soon, Kwatinetz said.
The Greater Augusta Arts Council announced Thursday that it would hold monthly workshops, art shows and other events at the site.