Emory University and Republic Property Co. announced a preliminary plan at a community meeting this past Wednesday to turn Briarcliff Mansion, currently in a state of disrepair, into a hotel.
The proposal would see Republic Property represented at the meeting by its president and founder Jerry Daws, restore the mansion and grounds. Once restored, the property would be a “boutique hotel and event venue,” Daws explained. Michael Mandl, CEO of Mandl & Co. and former executive vice president for business administration at Emory, joined Daws in presenting to about 50 community members.
Refurbishment of the mansion alone is estimated to cost $32 million dollars. In his presentation, Daws stressed that this plan is the only economically viable option for the restoration of Briarcliff Mansion. According to a 2011 video published by Emory University, the mansion itself cannot be torn down as it is on the national register of historic places.
As proposed, the redevelopment plan proposes to add to the property 54 rooms for guest lodging by constructing new cottages, built in the style of the main house, along with rooms in the mansion itself. The project would occupy nine-and-a-half acres of land.
“The grounds [of the property] would be open to the public to enjoy,” Daws said, adding that he envisions a future in which the renovated property would be integrated with the community. In addition to the proposed boutique hotel, Daws planned to have the mansion serve as a “culinary destination” of the South, with a signature restaurant open to diners who are not hotel guests.
Despite the fact that Daws stated the refurbishment would probably not conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for the treatment of historic properties, Republic hopes to use the rooms for their originally intended purposes in the mansion if the project moves forward.
Those in attendance had a generally positive reaction to Republic’s proposal. Some prefaced questions to Daws with affirmations or congratulations on the presentation.
The preliminary renders for the project were done by Smith Dalia Architects (SDA), who recently worked on the refurbishments of Emory’s Alabama and Harris Residence Halls. SDA has previously renovated other historic buildings in the Southeast.
Republic and Emory are in negotiations regarding the length of a potential grounds lease. Such a lease would allow Republic to operate the proposed hotel on the grounds for a predetermined number of years, and in exchange, Republic will fund the renovation of the property. Emory would not give up possession of the property it acquired in 1998, which has remained unused and boarded-up since then.
Briarcliff Mansion was originally built in 1920 by Asa Candler, Jr., and it was sold 28 years later to the General Services Administration to be used as a veterans hospital. However, this plan never materialized. Instead, the mansion was used by the Georgia Mental Health Institute as a psychiatric hospital.
When describing a timeline for the project, Daws stated that Republic Property tentatively plans to open Briarcliff Mansion as a hotel in late 2018.