Trend Radar: December 2007

The coast with the most: After decades of spotty growth, the southern third of Georgia is alive with planned projects that forecast an Atlanta-like economic boom. Out-of-state developers, it seems, are finding proximities to Florida, especially those along an interstate, to be intoxicating.

Just west of Interstate 95 in coastal Camden County (pop. 46,000), North Carolina-based Crescent Resources, a development firm, has purchased 14,800 acres for a mixed-use community that would include 40,000 residential units. The planned Villages at Kingsland would be built out over 20 years and offer 9.5 million square feet of commercial buildings and 13.5 million square feet of industrial space.

“It was a tremendous announcement, almost beyond words,” says Kingsland Mayor Kenneth Smith. “This will have a dramatic impact on our economy, not just on the residential growth but also on the commercial and industrial jobs and opportunities that will open up.”

Crescent Resources is depending on the city of Kingsland to annex its property into the municipality to get the needed infrastructure, and is also asking for rezoning to accommodate its use plan. Those issues will be resolved, says Smith, who adds that he expects to see the infrastructure construction begin within the next 18 months.

“We have not had the disagreements on annexation that have been associated with other parts of the state,” Smith says. “I think it’s all workable. We have to look at things like wetlands, but I don’t see any problems. I believe in the project.”

Viva Valdosta: Two historic projects for the Valdosta area were announced in the final months of 2007, including a $425 million, 250-acre mixed-use development that includes residential neighborhoods and commercial areas.

The project has the working name of Market Street and is the product of United American (UA), a Florida development firm. “It is the largest development project ever in this community,” says Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson. “When built out in about two years, it is estimated it will generate about $5 million a year in property taxes and enhance our sales taxes by about $12 million.”

The property is located on I-75 about 16 miles from the Florida line. UA has the property under option pending its annexation into the city of Valdosta, which Hanson believes is a “done deal.” Anchor tenants are under contract for the 600,000 square feet of retail space, Hanson says, and there are plans for a 500-700-room hotel and 200,000 square feet of office space.

In other news, about 10 percent of Valdosta is set to be auctioned off later this month when 2,236 acres of subdivided privately owned land with 11 miles of road frontage are placed on the block. The properties are within 7 miles of I-75. The heirs to an estate are holding the sale. But there is a little more mystery to the future of those parcels. “It’s the largest parcel of undeveloped property in the city of Valdosta,” says Hanson. “It has great potential; the infrastructure is in place.” But, says Hanson, the city will learn its planned use only after the land is sold on Jan. 11.

The cows come home: When Rome’s Berry College received the prestigious National Preservation Honor Award last October from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the recognition marked the convergence of history, architecture, commerce and philanthropy at a mountainside dairy on the 26,000-acre-plus campus, the nation’s largest.

Construction of the Normandy Dairy, built in the 1930s by Berry students, was funded in part by the generosity of Herbert Hoover and Henry Ford. The original architecture was designed, as the name implies, to resemble that of a village in Normandy, France. The 15 buildings of the dairy complex are of whitewashed hand-made bricks with red tile roofs.

After decades of churning out what Berry boosters described as “the best milk in Georgia,” the dairy was abandoned in 2000 when the cows moved to a more modern site at another campus location.

In 2004, the WinShape Retreat Center opened in the carefully restored buildings at the dairy, its $30 million restoration and modernization funded by the WinShape Foundation, a nonprofit begun by Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy.

Chick-fil-A has used a wildly successful ad campaign featuring cows urging consumers to “Eat More Chikin.”

Today, the WinShape Retreat Center’s rooms are notable for the absence of TVs, phones and internet connections.

The WinShape Foundation shared in the National Trust for Historic Preservation award, as did the architectural firm of Surber, Barber, Choate and Hertlein.

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features