New Life for Old Candler Hospital? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/18/06

New Life for Old Candler Hospital?

The site on Drayton and Gaston Streets. The site on Drayton and Gaston Streets.
Touring the wide halls. Touring the wide halls.

Imagine over 110,000 square feet of office space in one building in a prime downtown Savannah location sitting empty. That's the case at the old Candler Hospital on the corner of Drayton and Gaston Streets, overlooking Forsyth Park. It's been vacant for nearly a decade, but some say it's time to change that.

This morning, members of Savannah economic development group the Creative Coast Initiative invited local small-business owners and entrepreneurs to tour the facility, owned by Inman Park Properties. Visitors saw a range of office spaces and the odd shower room or kitchen, mostly laid out along very wide corridors. (The doors, too, are extra wide to accommodate hospital gurneys.)

The space, TCCi says, is ideal for a variety of creative and technical businesses to work together. What the group defines as knowledge-based business, anything that turns a thought or idea into a business product or service. That runs the gamut from computer programming to publishing.

Whether they're smaller companies just starting out or larger organizations looking for space downtown, the vision is for them to have a comfortable working space that loans itself to interdisciplinary networking.

Picture bumping into a professional from any of a dozen different cutting-edge, knowledge-based companies in your wing. You might hang out in the spacious hallways or go for coffee in the kitchen (or next door for a drink at the Mansion on Forsyth Park) and come up with the next great idea for the Savannah area's innovation economy.

"We had a big dream," said TCCi executive director Chris Miller. "We started looking at a piece of property that hadn't been used in ten years. And we recognized that the growing knowledge-based businesses in town need flexible office space, and they want to be in a nice part of town. And the question is, why not connect those two things?"

With the famed Candler Oak on the property, off-street parking, the park literally across the street, and lots of downtown attractions in walking distance, it's safe to say the "nice part of town" part is there. As for flexible office space, we're told the building is of solid concrete-and-steel construction and spaces could be renovated and rearranged as needed.

At least basic renovations are needed; from wood paneling to peeling paint, the interior is showing its age. But it is structurally sound, and infrastructure like electricity and water is in place.

Miller says putting the building to this use would also help attract out-of-town knowledge-based businesses. "Having this much space in this great an area, with other knowledge-based businesses, gives other businesses an opportunity to look and say, 'That's what my life would be like, and these are people that can help me.' That's a big deal and it makes a big difference when you're looking to attract companies."

No plans have been finalized for the effort. At this point, the Creative Coast Initiative is trying to gauge interest in the property. Any interested parties can contact them here:

http://thecreativecoast.org/about/

If you'd like to see some of what we saw this morning, there's a one-minute video tour linked above the images at the upper right.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com

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