Campus News

‘Economic driver’

University submits proposal to local redevelopment authority to turn Navy School property into a Health Sciences Center

The university has developed a proposal to turn the Navy Supply Corps School property in Athens into a Health Sciences Center that would be home to UGA health-related programs and link university health initiatives with other programs in Athens and at the Medical College of Georgia.

The center would be a major “economic driver” for Athens and Northeast Georgia and would “address a pressing shortage of health care professionals” in the state, according to the proposal. It also would return the historic campus to the university, which owned the property until it was turned over to the U.S. Navy in 1954.

The U.S. defense department is closing the Navy School as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process and the campus is expected to be vacated by 2011. The Athens-Clarke County government has created a Local Redevelopment Authority to recommend how the property should be used.

UGA submitted its proposal to the authority earlier this month. The plan envisions turning the entire 58.8-acre campus into a center that would pull together health-related resources at the university, the city’s two hospitals, clinics and treatment facilities in the community, and Athens Technical College, as well as programs at the Medical College of Georgia.

“Reprogramming the (Navy School property) offers Athens, the University of Georgia and the state of Georgia an extraordinary opportunity to positively impact our collective futures for generations to come,” the proposal stated. “We dare not miss this opportunity by setting our horizons too low.”

Among programs that could be housed in the proposed center are UGA’s College of Public Health and the Health and Risk Communication Center; the Medical College of Georgia School of Nursing, which is now located in a shopping center; existing programs in healthcare administration and public health administration taught by UGA and the medical college; and new allied health programs developed in collaboration with MGC and Athens Technical College.

The center also could have a clinical facility, a branch library and could offer continuing education in health sciences.

The center would boost the local economy through new jobs, construction, increased enrollment and more demand for goods and services and would train new health professionals to help ease a statewide shortage of such workers caused by lack of instructional space, faculty and other resources, the proposal stated.

The proposal noted that the university doesn’t have sufficient land for such a center, but the Navy School campus is ideal with its 27 buildings and potential for additional facilities and its location near Athens Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital and medical facilities along Prince Avenue. The proposal also cited UGA’s “exemplary record” for preserving historic properties.

Hank Huckaby, retired UGA senior vice president for finance and administration, led the development of UGA’s proposal. Additional details about the proposal will be submitted later, including estimates of the number of jobs that might be created and possible costs to implement the plan. UGA is one of eight public or private nonprofit organizations that submitted proposals for the property. The Local Redevelopment Authority is expected to report its recommendations in March 2007.