Millions could be spent on Mills GRU expansion plans

By: Ryan Houston Email
By: Ryan Houston Email

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, April 25, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Georgia Regents University has its eye on even more expansion. City leaders wonder if the price tag could be too high. The latest plan could include GRU taking over King and Sibley Mills to use as dormitories and classroom space.

Research and planning alone could add up to nearly $2 million.

"It would create sort of young life where these vacant buildings are," said John Hayes, who lives in Harrisburg.

Hayes runs a route passing the Mills daily. Hayes is in favor of using the Mills for GRU expansion.

"It's going to be a lot more accessible to more people," he said.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver agrees.

"You don't get an opportunity like this often. It's a good idea to continue using city resources," Copenhaver said.

More taxpayer money is needed.

"They must do this work in order for anyone to move forward with these properties. Some of the reasons why the properties are empty are because no one knows these answers," said Augusta Regional Collaboration Project Director Matthew Kwatinetz.

The developers behind this project plan to spend around $1 million on data collecting, programming and planning. They want the city to spend nearly $400,000. The mayor says it's a risk he's willing to take.

"I think it's well worth the investment for the future of the city," Copenhaver said.

Leaders spent around $400,000 on a disparity study. The findings have yet to be used. The city spent $13,000 on a transit study that reviewed ways of expanding bus service. In 2013, the bus service is exactly the same.

"We have done studies and assigned committees to implement findings. You need someone with the professional expertise to implement," Copenhaver said.

"I think it's a good gamble for the city to make," Hayes said.

Hayes' running route will continue to look the same until the Board of Regents decides which path to take.

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