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June 26, 2014

Shaw plans a no-go

Communiversity concept not happening at city building

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Milledgeville Players announced Wednesday that they have terminated plans to build a theater in the former Shaw Building.

With Solar Zones LLC losing an anchor tenant for the conceptual Summit Communiversity, the project won't happen at the 93,000 square foot city building.

Mayor Richard Bentley said Solar Zones Chairman David Sinclair's tenant loss changed the business plan.

“One affects the other. I think that's the situation we are at today,” Bentley said.

Milledgeville Players Theater Committee Chairman John Geist cited continual difficulties in reaching a final agreement, which have been the norm for nearly two years.  

“During the recent election, every elected city official voiced support for this project. However, it has been over a year since the mayor signed a Memorandum of Agreement with no final agreement,” Geist said. “To the contrary, the city just introduced another major change to the contract earlier this month.”

City Attorney Jimmy Jordan received Tuesday communication from Solar Zones' attorney Joe Mangum that the project lost the Players’ commitment and wouldn't make a counter offer to the city's latest Shaw lease-purchase price proposal accounting for the vandalism and property loss.

The city failed to protect and secure the property, according to Geist. He said the latest estimate of the vandalism to the Shaw building is as much as $300,000.

The lost property and damage estimates include the stolen copper wire and ravaged electrical panel boxes.

Bentley said it’s unfortunate the city didn't properly secure the building to avoid the rampant theft.

The Milledgeville Players brought up business ethics as well.

“Finally, the recent City Council issues with their operating ethics have created serious concerns about partnering with the city. Looking at what Solar Zones LLC has experienced with the city to date, and examining what we will need to accomplish in the future with the city, has left us with no choice but to withdraw,” Geist said.

Jordan called the building conveyance transaction complicated because the city couldn't directly transfer the Shaw Building to Solar Zones.

The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority had to serve as the lease-purchase transaction conduit.

The Development Authority brought in a state bond attorney to help formulate the deal that never happened.

“It was a complicated transaction that prior to the vandalism issue, we had pretty much resolved,” Jordan said.

Shaw Industries shuttered operations in Milledgeville in 2009. In August 2012 the company turned the warehouse over to the city for development.

On Aug. 10, 2012, the Players provided a letter of intent to the City of Milledgeville indicating interest in building a 200-seat theater in a re-purposed Shaw Building.  

The Players joined with Solar Zones to help press the effort forward and also helped form the Summit Communiversity as an organizational model to structure the community growth and services proposed for the re-purposed Shaw.

Similar incubator setups have been successful in other communities including Gainsville and Augusta.

The Players felt the project would enhance the near-south side, attracting what would have been well more than $1 million of private investment. It also provided for a stepping-stone to the re-developed Central State Hospital, according to Geist.

“At a day-to-day level, it was a viable repurposing of an unused city asset,” Geist said. “It created immediate job opportunities with the building reclamation.”  

The Shaw repurposing was tabbed to generate a business incubator, create space for additional entrepreneurial and educational activities and would have brought a theater and additional arts activities to the downtown.  

“We want to thank everyone for all the encouragement and assistance we have received over the past two years. We will immediately be turning our attention to other alternatives for building a community theater and establishing a home for the Milledgeville Players,” Geist said.

 

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