Local government to purchase units at 440 College Avenue to relieve space constraints

The ACC Commission authorized the local government to purchase several units at 440 College Avenue at a cost of $2.95 million to relieve a critical need for office space. Another $1 million is expected for renovation expenses.

As Athens continues to grow, the local government has grown along with it, adding 122 full-time positions since 2019. But many of these employees don’t have an office to work in.

Mayor Kelly Girtz
Mayor Kelly Girtz

“We are in need of some space,” said Mayor Kelly Girtz. “We have some employees who don’t have any space right now, and we have others who are going to be migrating, ultimately, into a new municipal facility. But we’re going to need a waystation along the way.”

The Central Services Department has been taking “extraordinary measures” in recent years to deal with the lack of office space, including the reactivation of Old Fire Station #2 and modifying the buildings of several other departments. These extraordinary measures are not sustainable for long, according to ACC staff.

While voters have already approved $77.9 million for a new judicial center and municipal building as part of SPLOST 2020, costs have escalated and both projects are stuck in the conceptual phase. Local government space needs have also increased. The size of the building in the original concept was 142,000 square feet, but they currently estimate they’ll need 172,000 square feet.

The estimated cost of the proposed judicial center and municipal building, adjusted for inflation and size increases, is now $140 million – far beyond available funds.

Although telecommuting by government employees and a high vacancy rate have eased the constraints somewhat, the commission deemed that the purchase of units at 440 College Avenue was an important step to continue government operations.

Western Circuit Public Defenders Office
The Western Circuit Public Defender’s Office

440 College Avenue is currently the site of the Western Circuit Public Defender’s Office, which will remain on location for the time being. The ACC government will become their landlord, receiving $155,239 yearly from the lease which will go towards the building’s upkeep.

ACC Manager Blaine Williams told the commission that the public defender’s office is secure at this location as long as the commission wants them to remain. “Whether or not they stay in that building will be up to the commission, long term,” Williams said.

In an interesting wrinkle, the local government won’t actually own all of 440 College Avenue after the purchase. The facility is held in ownership by a condominium association, which the local government will join without having a controlling share of the votes. This is somewhat concerning, but ACC attorneys asked for several changes to the association’s voting procedure and now say the local government is not at risk of major changes to the property.

The local government will hold six of the association’s thirteen votes, with College Avenue Partners, a limited liability partnership, holding the other seven.

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