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Community Development: Enabling a Transformation

February 3, 2017

How the CRE® Consulting Corps Helped Change a Georgia Town's Economic Future

by Howard Gelbtuch, CRE, Principal, Greenwich Realty Advisors

Every community has its “issues.” More often than not, those issues have implications for real estate.

Such was the case in Milledgeville: a picturesque, historic city that was Georgia’s state capital in the 1800s. Spared during the Civil War by General Sherman’s Union Army troops on their march to Atlanta, Milledgeville was home to the world’s largest mental institution: Central State Hospital (CSH). It was the largest employer in central Georgia for decades. Then it closed.

Changes to mental health treatment reversed the centuries-old convention of institutionalizing the mentally ill, ultimately leading to the enormous hospital’s demise. Hundreds of jobs were lost, and the community was left with nearly 200 vacant buildings – many in decay – on a 2,000-acre campus.

Help Was Just a Phone Call Away

The CRE® Consulting Corps – a public service initiative of The Counselors of Real Estate® (an NAR commercial affiliate organization) stepped in. The CRE® consulting team worked with Milledgeville’s Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) to find a solution to the community’s economic (and real estate) challenges. Quay Fuller – chairman of the CSHLRA Board of Directors and a member of NAR – says government officials, business owners, local academic leaders and townspeople had differing ideas for repurposing the hospital campus. “One of the most valuable aspects of working with the Consulting Corps was the CRE® team’s ability to involve key stakeholders, hear multiple points of view, and bring everyone together to support a common vision to revitalize the CSH site,” Fuller says. A five-member CRE® team, with real estate expertise customized for the assignment, spent a week in Milledgeville, and then continued working remotely to deliver a final, comprehensive client report, which included actionable tactics and “best practices” to help the city attract businesses and jobs to the site.

The Plan Is Working

Among the businesses opened so far are the 280-bed Correct Life Geriatric Care Facility, the Youth Challenge Academy (an initiative for teens), and the Summit Communiversity – a small business incubator. In all, 10 separate businesses are now operating on the CSH campus, and more than 500 jobs have been created. “The CRE® Consulting Corps provided an entirely fresh perspective and solid, actionable strategies,” Fuller says. “I highly recommend them.”

Is It Time to Call the CRE® Consulting Corps?

Frederick Campbell, CRE, president of The Cascade Group, and chair of the 2017 CRE® Consulting Corps steering committee, notes “The Counselors welcomes referrals for projects that enable positive changes in communities and non-profit organizations by solving real estate problems.”

CRE® members are seasoned property advisors who work in more than 50 real estate specialties, including development, finance, urban planning, health care investment, valuation, tax, institutional real estate, government, and academia.

For nearly two decades, the CRE® Consulting Corps has assisted municipalities, schools, non-profit organizations, and religious communities in solving a wide variety of real estate problems. Some recent projects include downtown revitalizations, hospital site adaptive reuse, asset management guidelines for religious communities, town/college expansion planning, and land planning for universities.

For information about referring a project to The CRE® Consulting Corps, or for membership in The Counselors of Real Estate, contact shaack@cre.org or call (312) 329-8431; www.cre.org.