The Union Recorder


June 18, 2014

Experts suggest new CSH entrance, action plan

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Central State Hospital (CSH) campus received an experienced, outside the box look by the Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) professional association last week.

A five-person team of real estate experts delivered ideas and plans for action to empower the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) mission.

CRE group leader Howard C. Gelbtuch, principal of Greenwich Realty Advisors, New York City said the task was discovering the highest and best use.

The CRE team interviewed a variety of state and local stakeholders, assessed market data, and conducted an on-site assessment of the property.

Instead of simply profit, Gelbtuch said the real estate experts focused on job creation.

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.

Time is the enemy to all real estate deals, according to Skip Preble.

In the near-term, the CSHLRA should market buildings with the highest architectural and historical significance that have a good chance of being leased immediately. Demolition is the best realistic move for the others.

“Realize there is a limited window to have this done at the state's expense,” Preble said Friday. “Moral obligations tend to go away pretty quickly in the political arena.”

Preble urged the CSHLRA to utilize the three-mile distance between CSH and the soon-to-be completed Fall Line Freeway as a re-focused entrance.

He called the 550-acre area east of Vinson Highway fronting the Oconee River an “unpolished gem” the CSHLRA should leverage.

“It has three-plus mileage of river frontage. It's a real gem here,” Preble said.

The CRA pro suggested clearing off functionally obsolete single family housing in that area, pursuing connectivity with the Oconee River Greenway and maximizing zoning flexibility. A clear line of sight from Vinson to the river would change the CSH campus also.

CRE team member Walter Clements said the hospitality and entertainment industries remained untapped.

Building demo would open up the CSH Pecan Grove as a major concert venue.

“If you have an event with 100 people, it equals almost $100,000 ripple effect in hotel rooms, food and other things people are buying. It's amazing what happens outside of just ticket sales,” Clements said. “That should be aggressively promoted more than it is.”

Clements envisioned a modest conference center targeting second- and third-tier corporate retreats on state land adjacent to the Oconee River.

While the business seminars go on, families could enjoy countless recreational activities.

“What a goldmine of an idea we think for a community like this,” Clements said. “There is a lack of banquet rooms in the community. This could also fill that void.”

The CRE team said the old hospital could piggyback onto the recent City of Milledgeville Bicycle Friendly Designation with a national conference and competitions.

CRE professional Jerry Turner touted a 90-day action plan for progress.

Turner said CSH might need incentives to grab tenants.

Making the campus a tax-free zone was one CRE point.

“Go up to the state and get as much as you can because you have to compete,” Turner said. “Tap into every government marketing vehicle you can.”

Job growth goals should tie to future land use plans. Turner named demolition funding as a major priority.

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

Turner urged the redevelopment authority not to wait.

“Time kills all deals,” he said Friday.


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