Credit: Bryant Harden
Judge gives Phoebe green light for historic building demolition
An Albany Superior Court judge has given the go-ahead for Phoebe Health to demolish a nearly century-old former school building.
The hospital is planning a $40 million training center for nurses at the site of the historic Albany High School and Albany Middle School on North Jefferson Street.
Members of the city's historic preservation board had rejected the plans.
But they were overruled by city commissioners, who found that the board had abused its discretion.
The board's Bryant Harden said that he plans to resign from the board following a special called meeting on Thursday.
"We have the authority to establish design guidelines," Harden said. "Our design guidelines state clearly that that school should be preserved. And, with this decision, it's quite clear that the City of Albany has no regard for the Historic Preservation Commission."
A Phoebe health official called the preservation board "a few loud voices trying to stand in the way of progress."
"These obstructionists have forced local taxpayers to fund a defense to a senseless lawsuit," said Scott Steiner, president and CEO of Phoebe Health. "It is time for them to stop pushing their personal agendas and do what is in the best interest of our community."
The judge ruled the board had no legal standing to appeal the case in court because it's a city body and the city can't sue itself.
The back-and-forth between the health system, city commissioners and the historic preservation board has played out for weeks in a high-profile rift in the South Georgia city.
Steiner said that work on the project, a "learning and living community center," resumed today.