The Union Recorder


June 6, 2014

CRE Consulting Corps mapping Central State Hospital redevelopment strategy

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) professional association will send a team of real estate experts to Milledgeville the week of June 9th in the latest of their volunteer projects to assist municipalities, government agencies, schools and not-for-profit organizations with solving complex real estate problems.

The CRE Consulting Corps' assignment is to create a redevelopment strategy for the Central State Hospital (CSH) site, which has been in the process of closing.

By the end of 2015, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which has historically operated on the property, will only operate in nine buildings covering 65 acres. Currently, the property as a whole includes more than 200 buildings and 2,150 acres, including a number of historic structures, a fully equipped hospital and one of the largest commercial kitchens ever constructed — 90,000 square feet in size.  

Half a century ago, the hospital was home to the world's largest mental institution, housing more than 12,000 patients. The facility was like a small community, including its own police force, fire department, utility systems and a school for developmentally disabled children.  

The team of real estate counselors will volunteer their professional expertise in addressing the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority's goal — to create a new, integrated, sustainable campus that can attract commercial investment.   

When the hospital was shuttered, it created a deep employment gap in this town. Local officials hope to restore the site as an economic engine for the region, ideally through business, residential and mixed-use development.

Michael Couch, executive director for the Central State Hospital LRA, has experience with projects of this magnitude. He was involved in successful redevelopment of two communities affected by military base closures under the U.S. government's Base Alignment & Closure Commission (BRAC).  

He was hired by Milledgeville to bring new thinking to the CSH dilemma.  As a plus, he is a Milledgeville native.

Couch contacted the CRE Consulting Corps because he said “we (CSHLRA) are at critical point in the repurposing of the CSH Campus.”

“With passage of our requested legislation in this year's Session of the Georgia Legislation, we now have the mechanism to access the property and broker the property to the private sector for the State of Georgia. We need a team, such as CRE, to help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our real estate and creative ways to bring the campus back to life,” Couch said.    

The six-person team will interview a wide variety of state and local stakeholders, assess market data and conduct an on-site assessment of the property.  At the end of the week, they will deliver preliminary recommendations.  

Over the following 30 to 60 days, they will produce a detailed strategic and tactical action plan.  

The team is led by Howard C. Gelbtuch, CRE, principal of Greenwich Realty Advisors, New York City, who served as Chair of The Counselors of Real Estate organization in 2013.  His expertise includes strategic counseling of institutional investors and corporate clients in property development, valuation and marketability in the U.S. and a number of other countries.

Consulting Corps team members' experience and skills are matched to the project's critical needs.  In addition to Mr. Gelbtuch's expertise, CSH team members' specialties include: land development, master planned communities, special-use properties, finance, feasibility studies and sustainability, as well as strategic planning.  

The Counselors of Real Estate, established in 1953, is an international professional organization whose members, admitted by invitation, provide objective, reliable advice and counsel on matters affecting all forms of real property in the United States and abroad. Members of The Counselors include ranking representatives of real estate, financial, legal and accounting firms as well as leaders of government and academia, all of whom, upon admission, are credentialed as CREs (Counselors of Real Estate).


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