Big Redevelopment Ideas for Former Mental Institution

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Updated: Sat, 14 Jun 2014 12:04:05 EST

Big plans are likely coming to Central State Hospital's campus.

The 2150 acre site has been in the process of closing the last few years. However, Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) professional association sent a team of real estate experts to the former mental institution. They volunteered their time and spent this week group evaluating the property and sharing ideas on how to bring life back to the area.

"Wiping the slate clean to a large extent,” real estate expert Howie Gelbtuch said. “The days of having a single user that's going to take a large building here we don't think that's the market for this."

Likely to happen is the demolition of at least 43 buildings including the former state prisons. This will help developers see the property and possibly build new buildings and businesses.

An area of focus is the historic quad that includes the Powell Building. The realtors suggest having recreational uses there like concerts, a bike path and conference center to help generate jobs.

"We like those uses because people come into your community, they spend money, you can capitalize on the proximity to downtown,” Gelbtuch said. “We've been calling that the longest two point one miles from your beautiful downtown to the entrance of your site here."

Another suggestion is changing the entrance from Swint Ave. to Broad St. The realtors suggest once the Free Line Freeway is complete, the campus’s new entrance will be only three miles away which may help generate traffic to the area

"We feel like it would be an excellent secondary access point and also the Vinson Highway has a lot of opportunities in terms of its appearance and the size of the right away."

It costs the state about $14 million a year just to upkeep the property. That includes manicuring lawns, and providing electricity and plumbing to buildings, even some that are vacant in order to prevent them from becoming dilapidated.

"We know that money can't stay forever,” Central State Hospital Development Authority Executive Director Mike Couch said. “We need to start moving in a new direction. Demolition of buildings opens development paths that bring new revenue streams to the community."

The Central State Hospital Development Authority plans to discuss demolition in the fall.

Relators also suggest developing 550 acres near the Oconee River. That may be used for housing and connecting to the Oconee River Greenway.

"People have told us this is a scary place and we don't see it as a scary place. We see it as a place ripe with opportunity,” Gelbtuch said.

By next year, the Department Of Behavioral Health And Developmental Disabilities will operate only nine buildings on 65 acres.

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