This story originally appeared in the November 2015 edition of Georgia's Cities.
Photo courtesy of The Courier Herald, Dublin, GA.
The Georgia Military College Dublin Campus recently opened in downtown Dublin, with Gov. Nathan Deal attending the grand opening ceremony.
The ceremony marked the opening of the restored 1913 First National Bank building that will house Dublin’s newest college campus.
“Thriving communities are dedicated to enriching economic competitiveness and quality of life for citizens,” said Deal. “This restoration of Dublin’s First National Bank building exemplifies the vast potential of public-private partnerships. Georgia Military College’s campus expansion to the revamped Dublin Skyscraper will expand access to higher education, create jobs and enhance economic development in this community.”
The $4 million historical restoration of Dublin’s “Skyscraper” was a long time coming for Dublin residents, as the six story landmark was shuttered for decades. Attempts to revive the property through the years have been valiant, but never came to fruition— until recently.
Gainesville native and Dublin business owner Jim Walters took interest in the project and partnered with the Dublin Downtown Development Authority, Garbutt Construction Company and Georgia Military College to bring the massive restoration to life.
“The Old First National Bank building is one of the biggest, oldest and most architecturally-important buildings in middle Georgia,” said Joshua Kight, executive director of the Dublin Downtown Development Authority. “It literally towers over downtown and can be seen from miles around. By restoring this icon, Dublin is showing that our downtown is back. We’ve got energy and vision and we’re committed to making sure this is a place we can be proud of.”
Kight called the skyscraper restoration “the icing on top” of all the other recent improvements in downtown Dublin, including the Bicentennial Plaza, the Fred Roberts Hotel and the Old Post Office.
“By working together, Dublin’s public and private sectors have restored a beautiful, walkable downtown that we can proudly show off to our friends and visitors,” he added.
Now open to the public, the building includes such amenities as a locally-owned eatery, the Landmark Cafe & Market, on the ground floor, as well as a bookstore and common study area on the mezzanine level. GMC administrative offices and classrooms will occupy the 2nd, 3rd, and eventually, 4th floors, with the 5th and 6th floors available for lease as professional space.
Garbutt Construction Company, headquartered in Dublin and considered an expert in historical preservation, was tapped by the developer to complete the work on the skyscraper in a timespan of seven months.
“This project was too big for one individual to take on,” said Charlie Garbutt, president of Garbutt Construction. “The Old First National Bank building was the ‘elephant in the room’ as far as downtown Dublin revitalization. It took someone with the faith in Dublin like Jim Walters to be the catalyst for the rest of us to come together to make it happen. It was fun to watch. It also took foresight and wisdom at the state level to recently enhance historic tax credits for the state of Georgia. That was a deal changer. Think of the projects and jobs all across Georgia that these tax credits have created.”
As for the ambitious schedule for the project to be completed, Garbutt added, “I have to give a lot of credit to Tracy Lively, our project superintendent and our subcontractor team who embraced a very innovative project delivery process called ‘pull planning’ that brings the LEAN philosophy to the construction industry. To deliver a completely renovated, 19th century building with 21st century infrastructure in just over seven months is pretty remarkable.”
An accredited two-year liberal arts school, Georgia Military College will began classes at its Dublin campus on October 10.
“We are incredibly excited to be part of the Dublin Community,” said Georgia Military College President Lt., Gen (Ret) William B. Caldwell, IV. “They have welcomed us with open arms. This is a true collaboration as we work closely with the Dublin leadership to make this a premier educational facility for the community.”
Dublin celebrated a week earlier with a “Light the Skyscraper” celebration where crowds took to the streets and counted down the moments until the building was lighted for the first time in decades.
“This has been a great day for Dublin,” said Dublin Mayor Phil Best at the opening. “It is amazing how much this project has brought the spirit of community to our city. I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t tell Jim Walters just how grateful we are for his willingness to invest in our community asking very little in return. I wish our new anchor tenant, GMC-Dublin the very best and thank them for their commitment in helping educate our young folks.”