Five years ago, a group of eight local investors took a large leap of faith purchasing 85 acres on Fair Road adjacent to and behind East Georgia Regional Hospital. With plans for high end retail and professional development, the Market District was officially born.
By most developers' standards, the Market District has been a great success. With the exception of 10 premium acres close to Fair Road, the original investment group has sold all of the land within the district, and all but 10 or so acres of the land that has been sold is now developed.
From professional office buildings to retail and apartments, the Market District has become what its founders envisioned.
"I think it is as upscale as any development in Statesboro," said local builder Donald Nesmith, speaking on behalf of the development group. "We started this project with a particular look in mind, and I think we have done a pretty good job. From the sidewalks to enforcing the covenants, we have tried to maintain architectural control."
Nesmith his group has always had faith in the Market District's location. "If you look at where it is located, it is literally next to what is becoming a very large university as well as one of Bulloch County's largest employers - East Georgia Regional," he said. "It really is a great location."
Nesmith said he feels the development of the Market District was very timely, and doesn't believe it would have been as successful had the group embarked on the project in 2007 or 2008.
"If we had started this thing two or three years later, we might all be crying," he said. "We were very fortunate in that we were able to sell off a good bit of property right at the beginning which allowed us to pay off a significant amount of the debt. What we are left with now as a group is a great ten acres of property that is manageable."
Development in the district consists of three separate office parks, two large retail complexes, one small retail building, and a recently completed apartment complex - the Grove - which will be ready for this fall's influx of Georgia Southern students. There are also six medical offices that are not located in a designated office park.
"Right now, in addition to the ten acres that the group owns, there are approximately ten additional acres that haven't been developed," Nesmith said. "I would have to say that given what has happened with the economy in the last two years, that is pretty good."
The Grove isn't the only new addition to the Market District. Monkey Joe's opened its doors last week to enthusiastic hordes of youngsters. Owner Lisa Blount said location and the size of the space she was able to procure drove her decision to open in the Market District Center next to Mellow Mushroom.
"We have 16 ft. ceilings and 10,500 square feet of space," she said. "We needed all of that to house the inflatables that the children play on. It is the perfect space for us, and we blend very well with the adjacent restaurants that are here in the retail center."
Monkey Joe's is an interactive indoor party center filled with an array of giant air-filled play structures, jumps, slides, obstacle courses, developmental games and "wacky" party rooms.
"One of the aspects of the Market District that we found so attractive is that it is so safe," she said. "Parking areas and the streets have a lot of lighting, and it is a professional area. Parents can feel safe about bringing their children here. We feel that Monkey Joe's is a great addition to this area."
In 2006, Nesmith announced that he was going to develop 12 professional office buildings within the district. He named his development the Market District Office Suites. True to his word, 11 office buildings have been constructed, with one "pad" left to go.
"We just got out there and hustled, and like I said, it seems to have all worked out," Nesmith said. "I think there have been 18 doctor's offices that have been constructed in addition to the office buildings in the Market District Office Suites."
Local developer Andy Burns is a member of the development group. Five years ago he stated that the Market District was going to be a high-end, mixed use community, when it was developed. He said it would be beautiful, professionally done, and an asset to this area.
"I really believe that we have accomplished what we set out to do," Nesmith said. "We gave people options, and we have stayed true to the parameters we initially set up. It hasn't always been easy, but we have worked through it. I am proud of what we have accomplished."