Central State returns to operation
The city of Milledgeville has big plans for the Central State Hospital property.
A redevelopment open house was held on the hospital grounds on Wednesday.
“Our main overall plan is to have new economic development creating new jobs (and) educational opportunities. … We want to maintain the façade of the institution,” Quay Fuller, chairman of the redevelopment board, said. “We will knock down everything on the inside of the buildings, but the outside will remain the same, except for the areas that need to be repaired. Everything will look the same on the outside, but you will walk in and it will be brand new.”
The renovations intend to restore the institution to a usable facility and reclaim its historical status in the community.
“We want to repurpose the main buildings such as the Walker and Greene buildings. The churches and emergency service buildings are a part of that as well. ‘Transforming’ is the only word I can use to describe this project. We are transforming Central State Hospital,” Fuller said.
Phillip Joiner, the city councilman leading the project, explained the time frame for the project at the meeting.
“As for the progress, it is coming along. The plans have begun, however the construction has not. The governor has supported our efforts to improve this place,” Joiner said. “The city of Milledgeville has deemed this a very important and tremendous asset; we have viewed this as an opportunity to redevelop the south side of town given we already have the land, resources, et cetera.”
When asked how long this process will take, Fuller laughed.
“Long,” she said. “Years. I don’t know exactly how long it will take, but I know it’s going to be great. Like they say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ But we hope to have some small successes within the next 60-90 days.”
Another driving force behind the project is the passion brought by Richard Brookins, a Central State retiree. Brookins offered a wealth of background gathered in his 34 years of residence and spoke of the institution’s history.
When asked to recollect one of his most memorable experiences about the hospital, tears welled in his eyes.
“The first day I lived and worked here will forever be burned in my mind. I worked in the infirmary ward where there were 94 sick patients I had to look after. I was told I would go home at 5 p.m. that afternoon, but it turns out I didn’t leave until 5 p.m. the next day. That’s how many were dying and how shorthanded the hospital was at that time. Thankfully, it isn’t that way now,” Brookins said.
As for the redevelopment plans, many were surprised to find out he was not sad to see the changes.
“I am so proud and impressed. I have seen Central State Hospital at its worst and now at its best and final stages, and I couldn’t be happier that it will be of full use again,” he said.
Another topic brought up was how patients were dealing with all of the changes.
“I am not sure they are fully aware of what is going on, but we will be coexisting with the people who live here full time when the construction begins,” Fuller said.
In the spirit of Halloween, locals are curious whether any paranormal experiences have occurred while scoping out the property for development. There are approximately 25,000 marked and unmarked graves throughout the site leading some to wonder whether strange activity has occurred.
“I think once we get into the modifications we might experience something of that nature, but so far we haven’t come across anything,” Michael Couch, city planner, said.
With a project of this size, the light at the end of the tunnel is only a hope, but the design board and Milledgeville are committed to take on the job.
“There is no specific target date to when we will be finished,” Joiner said. “We are just taking it one bold step at a time and we want to be thorough. We don’t know what it’s going to look like, but we know where it is headed. We are in a strong place right now and excited for the future.”