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Downtown campus eyed for AASU
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Local officials are looking for a downtown location for Armstrong Atlantic State University’s Liberty operations, which have outgrown their Patriot Center site.
The fate of the former bank building at 125 S. Main St. intruded into a meeting of Armstrong’s Liberty partners this week.
The 1940s-era building is owned by Liberty County, but the commissioners decided to dispose of the structure, which is unoccupied.
Because of the building’s strategic location on the corner of Main Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, the commissioners gave the right of first refusal to the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority. Hinesville owns the vacant lot next to the former bank.
A longstanding plan by Armstrong and its four local partners; the board of education, the development authority, Hinesville and Liberty County; called for eventual relocation of Armstrong’s Liberty operation to a site on Airport Road where 25 acres is available.
That area is home to the Liberty campus of Savannah Technical College and a board of education bus barn, as well as a planned new middle school.
The downtown option has drawn support from Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and others because of the effect a college would have on downtown. They point to the Savannah College of Art and Design example in which the college bought and rehabilitated numerous downtown buildings.
Students, many of whom live in the downtown Savannah area, furnish a customer base for food vendors and other retail businesses.
“From the city viewpoint,” Thomas said, “we would very much like to see the downtown location.”
Bill Megathlin, assistant to the president of Armstrong, presented a site selection report to the partnership Monday. Cost estimates were included for two phases of development of each site.
The proposal for the downtown site, however, includes costs for demolition of the old bank building to make room for an urban-style classroom building, possibly three stories.
The idea of demolishing the old bank building brought immediate objections from the preservation-minded.
Jennifer Flournoy, a citizen who is now saving two turn-of-the-century buildings, said, “They can’t tear down that bank. It’s part of old Hinesville and people don’t realize what we’re losing when they let historic buildings be torn down.”
Flournoy is a former director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.

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