Prince medical office plan pulled, again

Courtesy of: Athens Weekly News

By: Brad Aaron

For the second time in two months, developers have
temporarily withdrawn a controversial proposal for a
new Prince Avenue medical office complex.


WOULD-BE DEVELOPERS of 1140 Prince Avenue say they
want to continue talks with residents about their
plan.
If the proposal moves forward as scheduled, the
planning commission will now issue its recommendation
on the project on July 1.

Atlanta development firm Taylor & Mathis wants to
build an 85,000 square foot, four story office
building at 1140 Prince, across from Athens Regional
Medical Center. The development would include a two
story parking deck behind the building, with access to
and from Nacoochee Avenue.

The parking deck would replace the Prince Rondavel
apartment building, one of a dwindling number of
in-town low-income housing developments.

Many who live near the site are opposed to the office
complex plan, citing its size and potential impact on
area traffic. Citizens are also against the rezoning
of two residential tracts for commercial use, which
would be required to build the project as proposed.

Those critical of the development were gearing up for
a March 4 planning commission decision. But with ACC
planners recommending that the project be tabled
because the developers had not provided all the
necessary documents to the county, the developers
withdrew the proposal from the planning commission
agenda.

This time, the project was scheduled to come before
planning commissioners on Thursday, May 6. But it was
pulled again for another 60-day cycle.

“We are making revisions, and obviously that takes
time, and [are] incorporating all the staff comments
in our plan,” says Jon Cook, local liaison for Taylor
& Mathis.

While it’s too early to get into specifics, Cook says,
project engineers and architects met with county
planning staff last week.

“There are some things that we want to achieve,” he
says. “We’re encouraged that we’re going to be able to
address some of staff’s major concerns.”

Cook says 1140 Prince representatives want to schedule
several additional meetings with neighborhood groups,
including CAPPA—which stands for Community Approach to
Planning Prince Avenue—a new organization of
neighborhood associations, property owners,
businesses, and government entities. CAPPA was formed
in large part as a response to the 1140 Prince
proposal.

But if the developers want to win over county
officials and the neighborhoods, they might first have
to extricate themselves from a hole of their own
making. In March, Andrew M. Taylor, president of
Taylor & Mathis, sent a bizarre letter to ACC Planning
Director Brad Griffin exhibiting indignation toward
planning staff and disdain for neighborhood residents
who question the project.

In addition to including a disparaging remark about
people who drive compact cars, the letter—which Taylor
copied to planning commissioners, Mayor Heidi Davison
and county commissioners—expressed resentment at being
required to produce scaled drawings of his firm’s
proposed building, and characterized concern over the
visual impact of the proposed parking deck as
“ill-founded.” Taylor also characterized the
proposal’s incompatibility with the comprehensive land
use plan as unimportant.

Then there’s the recent speculation that Athens
Regional Medical Center has already agreed to lease a
sizable chunk of 1140 Prince office space.

“Obviously we approached the hospital early on, but we
don’t have any type of commitment,” says Cook. “We
don’t have any signed leases with anyone.”

Elaine Cook, director of corporate communications for
ARMC (and Jon Cook’s wife), describes the supposed
lease arrangement between the hospital and Taylor &
Mathis as “The exact opposite of everything I’ve
heard.”

Speaking for Larry Webb, one of Athens Regional’s two
chief financial officers, Elaine Cook says there are
“No negotiations, no lease, no negotiations for a
lease. Just a rumor.”

29APR04 Athens Weekly News