The Union Recorder


June 30, 2014

Shaw building loses $2.2 million investment

MILLEDGEVILLE — With a key tenant dropping out of the Shaw building's proposed business incubator, job skills training and center for the arts, David Sinclair of Solar Zones LLC. announced “effective immediately” he will no longer negotiate with the City of Milledgeville.

The Milledgeville Players terminated plans to build a theater in the 93,000 square foot former Shaw manufacturing facility last week.

“With the decision made by the Milledgeville Players to pull out of the Shaw building venture and without their involvement as a major contributor and key anchor tenant, Solar Zones found the project to be financially unviable,” Sinclair said in a press release.

The total projected cost of the Shaw repurpose was $2.2 million as estimated by Johnson Quinn and Associates. The Milledgeville Players and private investors together with Sinclair and wife CC would have jointly provided funding.

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

Discussions with the city about repurposing the building began around that time.

Mayor Richard Bentley and Sinclair on behalf of Solar Zones signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the lease-purchase agreement in October 2013.

The building conveyance transaction was complicated because the city couldn't directly transfer the Shaw property to Solar Zones.

The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority had to serve as the lease-purchase transaction conduit. Sinclair said a mutually acceptable transaction solution required much more time.

“Negotiations have been protracted due to what the city can do or more to the point what they can't do with the property,” Sinclair said.

Milledgeville Players Theater Committee Chairman John Geist cited these continual difficulties in reaching a final agreement.

He also said the city failed to protect and secure the property throughout recent months creating a vandalism damage estimate of as much as $300,000.

Sinclair said city management cut the power supply to the building, leaving no effective alarm system. The lost property and damage estimates include the stolen copper wire and ravaged electrical panel boxes.

City Manager Barry Jarrett said the power was never cut off to his knowledge and that there wasn't a security system at the building.

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

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

Sinclair thanked Mangum and the hard work of others throughout the negotiations.

“Solar Zones LLC are committed to continuing to work with the Milledgeville Players and supporting the development of their theatre along with establishing the Summit Communiversity in Milledgeville,” Sinclair said. “They will continue to work toward finding the appropriate venue that best supports our community-wide concept.”

The communiversity concept offered both permanent staff and a number of part-time jobs.

“However, its real value was for the benefit if the community in future years as it functioned as Summit Communiversity,” he said. “The new planned facility would benefit many people, young and old, across economic lines in the City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County.”

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.  

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

Leadership behind the conceptual community-based public-private partnership established a board in anticipation of the deal being made and joined a national group for future collaboration.

The National Association of Communiversities (NAC) officially launched Sept. 25, 2013 at Featherbone Communiversity of Gainesville, Ga, with Gus Whalen representing the Warren Featherbone Foundation.

The NAC is an affiliation of communiversities that operate independently but have formalized collaborative Declarations of Interdependence. Milledgeville's Summit Communiversity signed on with four others.


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