Brunswick’s Urban Redevelopment Agency still has its eyes set on a hotel to accompany the long-planned Oglethorpe Conference Center, despite recently showing interest in another proposal.
The agency expressed interest in a proposal from a father-son business team, Jim and Michael Kaufman, who suggested building the conference center in the downstairs of a building they own at 1612 Newcastle St. in downtown Brunswick. The proposal also included a 175-unit apartment complex and retail development to be built on the site of the old Oglethorpe Hotel across the street where Bay and Newcastle streets split.
“We really liked the Kaufman’s proposal and they are great people to work with, however, we made the decision not to proceed with the 1612 Newcastle St. building,” said LaRon Bennett, Brunswick Urban Redevelopment chairman.
The proposal from the Kaufman’s Project Newcastle LLC, included 12,000 square feet of space on the first floor of 1612 Newcastle St. as the site for the conference center.
The Project Newcastle proposal was the only proposal received in response to the agency’s request for ideas. The plan included retail and restaurant space on the lower level as well as parking on the Oglethorpe Block site.
According to Michael Kaufman, son of Jim Kaufman, they had not heard back from the agency after making their proposal for the 1612 building about four months ago. They decided instead to move forward with leasing the space to other interested parties.
But according to Bennett, the project has not stalled.
During the four-month period, Bennett said, the agency was reviewing the Kaufman proposal and the issues associated with it.
He also said the agency is dealing with other projects. He added that the agency meets once a month unless it has a special-called meeting, something he said has to be taken into consideration when talking about the time frame of the project.
One big problem with the Kaufman’s proposal Bennett said, was that it would exacerbate parking in downtown, Bennett said.
“I think there will be additional clarity on the direction the URA is taking as it relates to the conference center at our meeting on Thursday,” Bennett said. “There is more than one way to proceed with the project.”
Bennett said Friday the agency will not request a new round of proposals, something that would further delay the project.
“Our plan is to construct a conference center and a hotel,” Bennett said. “We have flexibility to speed up the process and will take the most expeditious route to get it done.”