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Sale of old county jail has excellent prospects
Gainesville had hoped to buy building from Hall, destroy it
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With 502 beds, the old Hall County jail is a bit larger than the typical real estate listing.

But Hall County is hoping to find a buyer for the facility, which now houses Corrections Corporation of America's North Georgia Detention Center.

On Monday, the Hall County Board of Commissioners discussed selling the jail for a financial boost in lean times. The county leases the facility to Corrections Corporation of America for $2 million per year.

"There is a market always for net-leased buildings," said local real estate expert Frank Norton Jr. "From the standpoint of selling with a 20-year lease, there are excellent prospects, institutional purchasers who will use that rent to support the return of making an investment."

In June 2009, the jail was appraised at $25 million, said Assistant Hall County Administrator Phil Sutton.

"The way that this appraisal was done was based on having the lease in hand with CCA," Sutton said. "That was an important factor in determining the value of the property."

Norton said having a reliable tenant tied to a property makes it much more valuable.

"Institutional quality people are looking for facilities that have long-term leases. Good credit tenants always are important," Norton said. "It's more than just the quality of the real estate, it's the quality of the income flow that becomes super important. From everything I can understand, this company is a financially viable business and prospects for them to pay the rent for a 20 year period of time are strong."

Corrections Corporation of America holds immigration detainees for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The detainees awaiting deportation proceedings come from Hall County as well as other parts of the state and country.

Officials with Corrections Corporation of America couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

The old county jail is in the heart of Gainesville's midtown district, which the City Council has been hoping to revitalize.

City officials say the institutional-looking building encrusted in fencing and razor wire does not mesh with the future image of the midtown area.

Gainesville had hoped to buy the facility back from Hall County and destroy it.

In 2007, the city and the county drafted an agreement - which was never put into effect - that laid out the terms for the city's purchase of the facility.

The agreement called for the city to pay $4 million for the jail over two fiscal years and allow the county to lease the jail to a private firm for seven years. The deal would have generated about $18 million for the county and guaranteed Gainesville officials eventual control of the property.

The unsigned agreement expired in 2009.


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