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Hospital system buys site near The Avenue
Land deal likely nixes plans for mall addition
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Forsyth County News

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has acquired the site of what would have been the second phase of The Avenue Forsyth.

The June 24 deal between Cousins Properties, developer of the large outdoor mall that opened this spring, and the nonprofit pediatric health care system totaled about $17.6 million, according to documents filed at the Forsyth County courthouse.

Patty Gregory, spokeswoman for Children's Healthcare, confirmed Monday that the system has "purchased 28 acres of land" next to The Avenue off Peachtree Parkway and near Ga. 400.

Gregory would not discuss possible plans for the site, saying only that officials are "continuing to evaluate how to best serve the growing pediatric population and do not have definite plans for this property at this time."

The retail center, which features more than 40 local and national stores, has quickly become a regional shopping destination. The first of what was billed as its two phases opened in May.

Cousins representatives declined to comment on the sale, as did officials with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

But at least one county leader said he was surprised to learn of the deal.

"If I remember, there was a hotel as part of The Avenue," said Forsyth County Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse. "Now if that is part of the second phase, and we're not going to get that, that hurts a little bit. Because you grant zoning and you grant concessions based on the premises of what you're going to get.

"You have to sit back and say, 'Would I have done this had I known?'"

When The Avenue project was unveiled, the developer mentioned a hotel and multiplex as part of a second phase.

There was, however, no immediate timetable for the mall addition, leaving the company responsible for upkeep of the property while it sat empty.

But even if a second phase was a long-term project, another developer has proposed a massive, mixed-use retail center with hotel and anchor stores one exit south on Ga. 400.

The proximity to the Taubman project could have swayed Cousins from investing in a second phase.

"The financial hit, it may be insignificant, I just don't know," Laughinghouse said. "We welcome [the] reputable firm. But it really would have been nice to have what we zoned the property for."

Cousins Properties still owns 10 acres of developable land between the 71-acre shopping center and the 28 acres it sold to the hospital.

Though the space is large enough for a hotel, Cousins is keeping quiet on its plans, if any, for the site.

Children's Healthcare has not applied for a certificate of need from the Georgia Department of Community Health, which must give its approval to the opening of any new hospital.

The complex certificate of need process is an effort to avoid duplication of expensive services and evenly distribute medical care across the state.

State health planners will weigh whether there is a legitimate need for the proposed service and, if so, if the health system making the application is best suited to fill that need. Other medical facilities can challenge the application, thereby lengthening the process.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta treated more than 200,000 patients from all 159 counties in Georgia during 2007. It will, Gregory said,  "continue to prepare for the statewide population growth." 

"Currently 2.5 million children live in Georgia and about 133,000 additional children are expected in the next five years," Gregory said.

"As one of the leading pediatric health care systems in the country, Children's is committed to ensuring Georgia's children have access to the high quality care provide at our hospitals and neighborhood locations."