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On September 15, 1998, Emory and the State of Georgia completed the transaction deeding the property of the former Georgia Mental Health Institute (GMHI) to the University. When Emory acquired the property in the fall of 1998, the price of $2.9 million hinged on three specific terms. First, Emory agreed to accept the property in its present state of disrepair. This was no minor condition, since the initial estimates of $28 million needed to repair the buildings grew quickly to almost $90—a 17-building, 42-acre fixer-upper. The second condition was to establish with Georgia Tech the multidisciplinary biotechnology development center. Finally, Emory agreed never to resell the property without specific approval of the State.
The new campus was purchased to house a number of university programs. The cornerstone, however, was to be a biotechnology development center (BDC)—a start-up business incubator developed with Georgia Tech that would nurture promising technologies until they became strong enough to be stand-alone businesses.
Building A is the former administration building for the GMHI. Its six floors include wide hallways, large offices, empty patient rooms, and two medium-size auditoriums. Building B houses an old gymnasium. The eight "cottages" that ring the two larger buildings once housed living space for adult and pediatric mental patients. Below it all is an underground world of interconnecting tunnels stretching as far as the eye can see.
The property, a 42-acre estate, now designated a national historic site, was once home to the elegant Candler Mansion and greenhouses built in 1920 by Asa Candler Jr., son of the Coca-Cola founder. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine the zoo animals that once roamed the property and eventually became the first occupants of Atlanta’s zoo—an elephant parading by the swimming pool perhaps, a giraffe peering over the long stone wall on Briarcliff Road. In the evening, partygoers frequently danced the night away in the third-floor ballroom.
In 1948, the Candlers sold the estate to the General Services Administration for use as a veterans hospital, which never materialized. Instead, the Georgian Clinic (later known as the DeKalb County Addiction Center) opened there as the first alcohol treatment facility in the state. Emory helped the state develop the Georgia Mental Health Institute in the mid-1960s.
In the intervening years, as collaborations between Emory and Georgia Tech have grown more numerous and robust, the two institutions have explored the possibility of moving the biotechnology programs to a yet-to-be determined location more accessible to the Georgia Tech campus. This would free the Briarcliff Campus for other kinds of development in keeping with the educational mission of Emory and the character of Druid Hills.
Sources. Korschun, Holly. Momentum, Winter, 1998
Emory Report, September 28, 1998, Volume 51, No. 6
Hauk, Gary S.
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Last updated: October 11, 2007