At a special called meeting of the Coffee County Board of Education Tuesday morning, the board voted to sell the 23-plus acres at 1311 South Peterson Avenue – the old high school and walking track – to the Jones Company for $3.6 million. The BOE sold the property in two tracts – 10.69 acres for $1,603,500 and a 13-acre tract for $2,035,500. The board did not sell the property upon which the school system’s central office sits.
The old high school and track will be demolished and in their place will be a $29 million retail complex that is expected to create an estimated 220 jobs. There was no mention of exactly what retail businesses would occupy the center. However, the project will include national franchises and local entrepreneurs.
This tract first showed up on the Economic Development Authority’s retail radar in 2012, when a state partner identified this property as the most attractive in the city. Representing the EDA in 2015, JoAnne Lewis met with the BOE, which owned the property. What was discussed in 2012 was forced to the table in 2015 when a major food chain identified the site for possible development. Understanding the principles of highest and best use for real estate, the BOE entered an options agreement with EDA for the purpose of marketing the property for retail development. Lewis spearheaded the project from conception and has remained involved following her retirement in February 2016.
“I was asked to complete the work that was started and I agreed,” comments Lewis. “Retail industry professionals told us to allow three to five years for development plans of this size to become tenant occupied. When complete, I believe this project will change the face of retail in Coffee County and South Georgia for decades to come.”
Following the acquisition of land, there is still much work to be done including site prep, architectural planning, permits, construction and tenant contracts. Lewis shared there is no exact time table for completion; but she hopes to see site prep work in 2017, facility construction in 2018 with tenant occupancy to soon follow.
- DouglasNow.com's Jerry Hudson contributed to this report.
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