Volunteer Real Estate Consulting Corps Maps New Strategy for Former Mental Hospital Campus Redevelopment


Chicago – November 5, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — The economic future of Milledgeville, Georgia is growing brighter because of recommendations made by a group of real estate executives who volunteer to help non-profit organizations, schools and municipalities solve complex real estate problems.

The Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) has publicly released the 84-page report from the organization they turned to for help in redeveloping the 2,100-acre site of the now-closed Central State Hospital — The CRE Consulting Corps, a community service initiative offered by The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE), a Chicago-based international professional association.

Mike Couch, executive director of CSHLRA sought an independent assessment and actionable plan for the largely vacant campus. At one time, the hospital was the largest employer in Baldwin County. The facility was closed by state officials as new mental health care protocols left the state’s institutional campus for mental patients obsolete. As services diminished, then finally stopped, employment in Milledgeville and the entire county greatly decreased. Creating new jobs is a central focus of the redevelopment process, Couch said.

The campus, with more than 200 buildings, includes a massive 90,000 square foot kitchen, a school, patient facilities, a former fire station, offices and residences. Many buildings are historic, with some dating to the mid-1800s and early 1900s.

The Corps’ recommendations have the potential to transform the deteriorating campus into a cluster of new businesses, educational facilities and recreational destinations. The report also presented ideas for a new gateway to provide easier access to the site and improvements to a prime riverfront land tract that could draw large numbers of corporate retreats and tourists to the area.

Couch has experience with similar large scale real estate challenges. Before accepting the position as head of the CSHLRA, the Milledgeville native was involved in two successful redevelopments of former military bases closed as part of the U.S. government’s Base Alignment & Closure Commission (BRAC). “It took new and innovative thinking to come up with a plan that would make big changes possible in Milledgeville,” he said. “That’s what we got from the CRE Consulting Corps. We needed a team with deep experience to help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our real estate and creative ways to bring the campus back to life. The report is a strong foundation for us. ´ Couch is now actively seeking new funding to make site improvements to attract new businesses to Milledgeville.

Couch also noted that because the Corps’ team members donated their professional expertise, working with The Counselors of Real Estate saved the redevelopment authority a significant amount of money — the CSHLDA could have spent three to four times more for consulting services at market rates. “Conserving financial resources is one of the advantages of working with the CRE Consulting Corps,” said John Hentschel, president of Hentschel Real Estate Services, a Maryland advisory firm that specializes in municipal redevelopment projects. The former real estate officer for the City of Baltimore chairs the CRE Consulting Corps’ steering committee and works with The Counselors of Real Estate to review requests for help the Corps receives. “Members volunteer with the CRE Consulting Corps as a way of giving back to the world community,” he said. He noted that Corps clients typically cover travel expenses for the volunteer team members plus a small administrative cost.

The five-person Consulting Corps team interviewed a wide variety of state and local stakeholders, reviewed market data, and conducted an on-site assessment of the CSH property. After a week in Milledgeville, they delivered preliminary recommendations. The full report containing dozens of actionable recommendations was developed over several weeks of team strategy meetings conducted via conference calls and online collaboration. The final report was delivered to the CSHLRA in September.

All Consulting Corps’ volunteers are members of The Counselors of Real Estate, the invitation-only non-profit organization for leading experts in more than 50 real estate specialties, including master planning, feasibility assessments, valuation, redevelopment, law, and public/private partnerships.

The Consulting Corps builds its teams with non-local experts who specialize in skills applicable to the problem at hand. The Milledgeville volunteer team was led by New York City-based real estate advisor Howard Gelbtuch, principal of Greenwich Realty Advisors. It included experts from the Chicago area, Pennsylvania, and Texas with specialties in capital formation, national and international property marketing, adaptive reuse and redevelopment, master planning, design, and construction.

The redevelopment authority board will meet this month to determine next steps. So far, Couch notes that groundbreaking has taken place on a 16-acre portion of the hospital campus. CorrectHealth, a correctional healthcare company, will build a 280-bed geriatric care and skilled nursing facility, creating 225 new jobs.

In September, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced that an application for funding has been sent to the U.S. Department of Defense, naming Milledgeville as a third location for the Georgia National Guard Youth Challenge Academy. Officials are evaluating a portion of the Central State Hospital campus as the potential location to house the voluntary program for high school dropouts. If approved, the academy will be able to expand its program which helps at-risk youth improve skills, educational levels and employment potential.

About the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority

The Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) is a non-profit organization located in Milledgeville, Georgia. CSHLRA was formed in 2012 and is an integral part of the effort to repurpose, revitalize and redevelop the beautiful and historic Central State Hospital campus. Charged with developing economic strategies for the redevelopment and repurposing of Central State Hospital, CSHLRA’s activities include identifying new business prospects as well as managing the development of the CSH property with a focus on creating new jobs, providing training and developing other educational opportunities for the betterment of the community.

About The Counselors of Real Estate and the CRE Consulting Corps

The Counselors of Real Estate, established in 1953, is an international professional organization whose members, admitted by invitation, provide objective, reliable advice and counsel on matters affecting all forms of real property in the United States and abroad. Members of The Counselors include ranking representatives of real estate, financial, legal and accounting firms as well as leaders of government and academia, all of whom, upon admission, are credentialed as CREs (Counselors of Real Estate). In addition to showcasing the expertise of CREs, the CRE Consulting Corps provides opportunities for members to volunteer their time to help non-profit organizations, schools and municipalities solve complex real estate problems.

The Counselors of Real Estate®, established in 1953, is an international group of high profile professionals including members of prominent real estate, financial, legal and accounting firms as well as leaders of government and academia who provide expert, objective advice on complex real property situations and land-related matters. Membership is selective, extended by invitation only. The organization’s CRE® (Counselor of Real Estate) credential is granted to all members in recognition of superior problem solving ability in various areas of real estate counseling. Only 1,100 people in the world hold the CRE credential. For more information, contact The Counselors of Real Estate, 430 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611; 312/329.8427; http://www.cre.org

Alice Muncaster – The Counselors of Real Estate
(312) 329-8430

Lauren Abis – Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority
(478) 363-1670

Previous articleNCRC Director of Legislative and Policy Advocacy Mitria Wilson Selected as One of HousingWire’s 2014 Influential Women in Housing