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Gainesville Council to vote on lease with Brenau
University wants to expand programs into Georgia Mountains Center
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Mountains center director resigns

With the impending Brenau University takeover of the Georgia Mountains Center, the convention center's director, Carol Moore, has resigned her post.

The Newnan Times-Herald is reporting Moore has accepted the job of director of the nearly complete Newnan Center, which will open this summer.

Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett confirmed on Thursday that Moore resigned a few weeks ago to accept the job in Newnan. 

Brenau University is another step closer to taking control of Gainesville's Georgia Mountains Center as part of a planned graduate-level expansion.

Gainesville City Council is expected to vote in favor of a resolution Tuesday that would set the stage for a 10-year lease agreement with Brenau. The university could take over the 30-year-old convention center by the end of the year.

As part of the terms, Gainesville would not charge Brenau for rent in the first five years of the lease. During that period, the university is expecting to spend about $3 million in renovations to the center to accommodate classrooms and labs, said Brenau President Ed Schrader.

Adding that to the costs of hiring faculty for new graduate programs to be housed at the center, Schrader said the university wouldn't be able to otherwise afford the center.

In the meantime, the city would still be responsible for maintaining the roof and exterior of the building.

However, Gainesville officials said the move would provide immediate city savings. City taxpayers have been covering operating expenses for the center to the tune of about $400,000, according to the lease.

In the end, Mayor Danny Dunagan said the agreement benefits both parties because a Brenau expansion is expected to bring economic revival to downtown. Brenau University President Ed Schrader said new student housing - which could bring 400 students within five years - would be focused near the mountains center.

Schrader projects a $40 million annual economic impact to Gainesville and Hall County once the university's programs are up and running in 2014 or 2015.

"It's going to be the best thing to happen to downtown in years," Dunagan said Thursday.

Last fall, city and university officials signed a memorandum of understanding that the university would conduct a feasibility study on how it could use the center.

Schrader has proposed the university lease the center for graduate-level classrooms and lab space, potentially for health care-related studies. The first proposed program would be physical therapy. Schrader said the school also will consider adding in-house physician assistance and pharmaceutical programs.

Some of the key agreements to the lease are:

  • Gainesville City Council would transfer the title to the Mountains Center to the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority, which would execute the lease.
  • Brenau University would take over the entire Mountains Center building, as well as its loading docks, but not the parking deck beside it.
  • After five years, Brenau will begin paying the city $10,000 per month for use of the center.
  • Brenau will honor current scheduled events at the center through 2012.
  • At the end of the 10-year lease, the university could propose purchase of the center or seek to renew.

If City Council approves the lease, Schrader will go to the Brenau University Board of Trustees for approval of a graduate-level physical therapy program to go in the building.

While the university president has approval to execute the lease, he said the trustees will still need to approve new degree programs to be housed in the center, which will require faculty and equipment.

That decision could happen either in March or over the summer.