Fayette County has lots of land, office space, but no plans to utilize any of it

The Justice Center in Fayetteville. Photo/Ben Nelms.
The Justice Center in Fayetteville. Photo/Ben Nelms.

It was 15 years ago that the Fayette County Justice Center opened in Fayetteville. Tentative plans around that time were to have some county offices located downtown move into the third floor. Now 15 years later, there are no current plans for the move or to use the 25 acres of vacant county-owned property surrounding the center.

Above, the Justice Center in Fayetteville. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Meanwhile, the county offices, at the intersection of Ga. Highway 85 and Stonewall Avenue, are situated on approximately 3.8 acres in the heart of downtown, with the building including approximately 66,000 sq. ft. The property was once the site of a retail effort that vacated the property.

A part of the discussion in years past was to have some portion of the county offices move into the third floor of the justice center that opened in 2003. The justice center was built using taxpayer-funded SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) revenues.

Situated a short distance southeast of downtown, the three-story justice center at nearly 150,000 sq. ft., or approximately 50,000 sq. ft. per floor, utilizes only two of the three floors. A portion of the square footage in the justice center includes the three-floor foyer area.

The justice center sits on a much larger county-owned tract, of which approximately 25 acres is undeveloped, with approximately 5.3 acres of undeveloped land to the east of the center, approximately 4.1 acres to the west and approximately 15.7 acres to the south. An abundance of parking is located on the site.

County Administrator Steve Rapson was asked a number of questions about plans for the justice center property and the property downtown that continues to house the county offices.

Pertaining to the undeveloped property surrounding the justice center, Rapson was asked what happened to the previous idea of relocating some of the county offices on the third floor of the justices center? And when, if still in the plans, will a decision be forthcoming? And if not, why not?

Rapson’s response to those questions said he was not sure, given that he has received no direction from commissioners dealing with the undeveloped property surrounding the justice center.

County-owned property adjacent to the Justice Center. Photo/Ben Nelms.
County-owned property adjacent to the Justice Center. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Asked what plans the county has to either do something with the undeveloped justice center property or sell it, Rapson said there are no immediate plans to develop or sell the property. Rapson added that he was not sure when a plan would be forthcoming.

A final question referenced the current county offices situated on less than 4 acres downtown. Given the development climate in downtown Fayetteville and the accompanying land prices, does the county believe keeping offices in the heart of downtown Fayetteville is the right approach today?

Rapson’s answer was “not applicable,” given that he has received no direction from commissioners.

A move of county offices to property it already owns at the justice center was not as significant in years past, including the years prior to and during the Great Recession and its aftermath. Today the picture is vastly different, with Fayetteville growing rapidly and downtown space at an increasing premium. Added to that, the city has embarked on plans, bolstered by the wishes of more than 500 residents during the recent Comprehensive Plan process, to have the downtown area transformed into a live-work, interconnected, pedestrian-friendly environment.

There has been talk in the recent past about the county and city working together to arrive at a different use for the downtown site. As of now, there has been no movement in that regard.