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Real estate experts tour Central State

Reviving the 2,000-acre Central State Hospital in Milledgeville isn't an easy task.

That's why the Central State Hospital Redevelopment Authority brought in a team of real estate experts, who presented their ideas to some community leaders Friday morning after a week of evaluation.

At first look, it could be hard to see Central State Hospital's potential.

"It wasn't really clear that there was going to be a good answer," said Skip Preble, a realtor from Texas. "We thought we'd be going between bad and less bad."

But after spending a week in Milledgeville, Preble says the team changed their minds.

"The potential is endless," said Walter Clements.

The team is working with the Central State Hospital Redevelopment Authority to revive the campus, which was once one of the world's largest mental health hospitals.

Ideas include demolishing unusable buildings, moving the entrance three miles from Swint Avenue to Vinson Highway, and leasing some property for government offices, businesses and events.

That could include an outdoor concert venue on what used to be the pecan orchard.

But they're not stopping there.

Long-term visions include building a conference center, incorporating senior housing, even an equestrian center.

They say the hospital's proximity to the Fall Line Freeway, Bartram State Forest and the Oconee River could make it a major attraction.

"We have to start a new era," Baldwin County Commissioner Henry Craig said. "There's 2,000 acres and 200 buildings that have to be re-purposed with many ideas, not just one idea. This is a huge step forward in finding a new vision."

The first step will be removing the stigma, says Mike Couch, the Authority's executive director.

"I think what we've still got is that lore and legend that is Milledgeville, the Central State Hospital," Preble said. "But I'd like to see us re-brand the project as something totally new and different."

Because if Central State becomes an economic engine, Preble says, "It helps downtown, it helps your school districts, it helps the population, jobs."

Couch says it costs $14.1 million in state funds to keep the campus running each year.

The Authority's executive board will meet next week to discuss a timeline for redevelopment.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Twitter @anita_oh and on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ.

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