The Rome-Floyd County Development Authority announced Thursday the state has accepted their offer to buy the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital property for $2.25 million, using SPLOST funds.
Development Authority President Missy Kendrick — speaking from the State Properties Commission meeting in Savannah — said the site has always been under consideration.
“It’s a prime piece of property,” she said. “We can’t say what the final product is going to look like. It’s going to be based on interest.”
Remaining flexible is the key, Kendrick said, and it’s going to take time for any visible changes to take place. Demolition will come in phases as they begin to clear the property.
But in that time, they’re going to see what leads they can get on any prospective businesses.
“When evaluating property for economic development, this site has been included as a top choice since the beginning — due to the size, location and availability of rail and infrastructure,” said Jimmy Byars, chair of the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority, in a statement.
Efforts came to a head in August when the county’s legislative delegation set up a meeting with the governor at the request of the authority.
State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said they went to Atlanta as a unified front with a proposal that addressed both the state’s liability — debt and upkeep — on the property and the local benefit.
“I believe in the very near future this will be a tremendous asset to our community, with jobs and a growing tax base to help support us here,” Hufstetler said Thursday. “I certainly appreciate the efforts of all involved.”
It’s been over 10 years since state officials confirmed that the sprawling Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome would be shuttered.
The hospital was one of the state-run mental health facilities. It was closed as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding treatment of patients in the state’s seven psychiatric hospitals. The closure left 700 employees without jobs and 2,000 patients without medical care.
There have been numerous offers, counter offers, plans and ideas proposed for the property since 2011.
The primary obstacle to a deal has always been the millions in debt owed on bonds the state issued to improve the hospital’s facilities before the decision to shut it down.
“I have felt all along that the highest and best use of the property was for job creation,” Rome Mayor Craig McDaniel said. “I want to thank Gov. Brian Kemp, the State Properties Commission and especially our legislative delegation for their support of our request.”
The former hospital site covers 132.5 acres of land and contains 195 buildings.
A ‘life-enriching opportunity’
One of the most attractive things about the site is that it is an intact complex with all of the utilities in place.
Byars said a study done by the city of Rome and development authority was clear that earmarking the property for economic development would provide the highest return on investment.
“Rome and Floyd County will continue to work together to provide a Class A GRAD Certified site to present to prospects,” he said.
The Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development certification tells investors the site is ready for fast-track construction projects.
However, the site also has its downfalls, including old buildings and the potential of costly asbestos mitigation during demolition.
Most of the buildings will be torn down to make room for new construction. Warehouse space is located on the property and will be available for lease, Kendrick said.
The chapel will be preserved and used as office space and plans are to retain one of the buildings as a possible childcare facility for prospective industry employees.
The state’s sale of the property will also free up approximately $3 million in yearly bond payments and upkeep fees — which all came out of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities budget.
State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, chairs the House Budget Committee’s human resources subcommittee, which oversees the DBHDD budget.
“Transferring those dollars to people — who, now more than ever, need services today — will now be a responsibility,” Dempsey said. “Today’s announcement holds great opportunity.”
Kemp said the sale will yield tremendous returns to both the state and Floyd County in terms of the potential for job creation and sustained economic development.
“It was very encouraging to hear the local governments’ united vision for this life-enriching opportunity for citizens in Northwest Georgia,” he said in a statement.
“We look forward to the day when a quality prospect decides this is the right fit to locate or expand in the Peach State, further adding to our reputation as the No. 1 state for business.”
Floyd County Commission Chair Wright Bagby called the deal “great news for Rome and Floyd County,” and noted that the funding is coming from a special purpose, local option sales tax.
“We needed to have this large tract and large opportunity in the hands of the Development Authority to guarantee development with the prime emphasis being on job creation,” he said in a statement. “It is especially gratifying to be part of a community that, through the citizens’ SPLOST votes for economic development, has given us the resources to acquire this property.”
This is the second large piece of property obtained by the development authority in recent months for prospective industrial sites.
A joint purchase, using SPLOST funds, of farmland surrounding Bass Ferry Road along U.S. 411 was announced in early August.
Floyd County, Rome and the development authority secured an option to buy 202.34 acres of land at $20,000 per acre from the Braden family. The total purchase price of $4,196,800 includes payment for a structure on the property.