STATESBORO — Two years since its approval, the project to transform the old University Plaza into a state-of-the-art apartment complex has made no further developments.
The complex, which was proposed by Stonewalk Companies, would operate as a multipurpose housing and retail development, featuring space for eight to ten businesses on its ground floor, community spaces for a gym and study rooms, a leasing office and 116 housing units. As of now, the plaza is expected to be completed by Fall 2020.
University Plaza has long been a part of Statesboro’s community, originally operating as a hub of commerce featuring a barbershop, clothing store and the original Zaxby’s. As time passed, many of these stores have closed down.
Recently, the square has only served as headquarters for a variety of bars marketing to the students of Georgia Southern. With the number of controversies surrounding such establishments, many of them have had to close down, sending the area spiraling into depravity. As of now, only a few businesses still occupy the square.
There are hopes that the development of the new complex, renamed University Place, would revive the Plaza and return it to its former glory, as Statesboro’s City Planner Owen Dundee has stated.
“I know there’s been some issues with the University Plaza over the years, and a lot of the businesses aren’t really occupied anymore,” Dundee said. “The shopping center’s kind of run down, and I think [the complex] would be a pretty good addition to add development like this, in this proximity to campus.”
According to Dundee, the land University Plaza is located on was rezoned to Planned Unit Development, meaning that whatever plan was created for development of the site was permanent; any changes desired would require redoing the entire plan.
Stonewalk reportedly was also insufficiently financed for the project and has been looking for more investors to fund the project before moving forward.
Unfortunately, University Place faces more difficulties than a money shortage. Even if the complex could be completed, some are worried the property could do more damage than help.
A major problem to some emerges from the businesses still located on the property. These businesses do not own the establishments they operate in as they are leasing them from separate companies. When development of University Place begins, the owners of these properties will be in charge of negotiations for the businesses.
Additionally, with a new apartment comes new housing opportunities for students. With numerous apartment complexes across the city, many are worried the new complex will dig the housing market deeper.
Recently GS has had trouble providing adequate housing for its students, yet another privately owned complex may not be the answer. Students may have trouble even affording a room in University Plaza, and with no set deadline for when the complex will be completed, it is unlikely additional housing will be needed even if it is finished.
Davis Cobb, The George-Anne News Reporter, [email protected]