GRU expansion would boost business, but can downtown handle the - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

GRU expansion would boost business, but can downtown handle the growth?

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AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) -

If Georgia Regents University purchases the Sibley and King mills from Augusta, the mills could soon house classrooms and 6,000 to 8,000 GRU students.

Fred Russell, the city administrator, says the Georgia Board of Regents has a consultant reviewing the proposal.

After their review, the Regents will decide if GRU can buy the mills from the city. If the proposal is approved, school leaders say it will bring thousands of students downtown.

While that would be good for business, Bill Fennoy, the Commissioner for District One, is worried downtown Augusta isn't ready for the growth.

"I think there are going to have to be some changes made," Fennoy, said.

He says there are several problems that need to be fixed if thousands of students are expected to live and study close to downtown.

"We still have some street and drainage issues that we need to deal with. We still have dilapidated houses that we need to deal with," he said.

Philip Marks, the owner of Rooster's Beak, thinks the proposed expansion could solve another problem downtown, the sometimes slow business.  

"There are only a small percentage of people that go downtown to begin with. So right now everyone is just sharing a piece of that pie. So everybody could use more business," said Marks.

Debbie Caron owns Eros Bistro and she says if GRU students move into the mills, she will get creative to get their business.

"If they wanted private times in the afternoon, we're slow between two and four o'clock. If they needed study time with no music on or no action around them we could even set up a study hall," Caron, said.

If GRU buys the mills from the city, Fennoy says despite the changes that would needed to accommodate so many people, it will be good for businesses and downtown. He believes the school expansion will motivate city leaders to take care of problems that he says have plagued the area for decades.

Fennoy said, "It's a win win for everybody."

Fred Russell, the city administrator, says it will cost Augusta about $500,000 to market the buildings to GRU. He says they don't know where the city will get that money yet.

The Georgia Board of Regents hasn't announced when they will make a decision about the mills.

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