By Sarah Wibell
After some delays, the Georgia Safari Conservation Park is moving forward with hires made and partners added, according to GSCP partners Mike Conrads and Brandie Anderson who shared updates with the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, April 25. While plans for beginning construction of Phase I was set for this spring, fencing and buffers will actually start going in this August.
Conrads asserted, “I assure you that we are fully committed and are moving forward with this project. First and foremost, we had that little hiccup working things out with the city and the county about how the zoning was going to work, because we do straddle the line. Thank you, staff, for working diligently and being patient with us. It did take some time, but it’s now settled (with the city allowing the county to be a single overseeing entity).”
Conrads went on to explain that there were also grant applications made that, while seemingly good fits for the GSCP, have not come to fruition at this time. One application was turned down by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Two other grants, a OneGeorgia grant for $500K to extend utilities from Madison to the GSCP and a grant through the Georgia Tourism Development Act, were tabled after the Georgia Department of Community Affairs reportedly stated that an applicant cannot receive both.
With plans for Phase I completed, some initial hiring has begun including an interim director for GSCP and support staff for the office. Oconee Construction is the general contractor, and M. K. Crowell Grading, Inc. is the local grading and pipeline contractor. Anderson added that Service Systems Associates are now involved with the GSCP. SSA were said to provide visitor services to 25 percent of zoos across the country.
“We’ve been very busy… and are hiring the right people to guide us and make sure that this is a success,” Conrads stated.
Additionally, the GSCP has a new full partner John Beasley. Recently retired from Wakefield Beasley & Associates, an inter-disciplinary architectural design firm in Atlanta, Beasley has been assisting the GSCP in their architectural planning for the past five years.
The GSCP is also undergoing restructuring and rebranding according to Anderson. Originally named the Georgia Zoo & Safari Park, the project was rebranded Georgia Safari Conservation Park in 2016. While GSPC, LLC is the holding company, a separate company handles day-today operations. Furthermore, the Georgia Zoological Society, Inc., a 501(c)(3), was established.
Another facet of rebranding will focus on designing more cohesive logos that interlink the GSCP and the non-profit. In addition, their website will be updated to establish a more professional and larger online presence. Both the logos and the website are expected to be completed in August 2019.
Currently, the non-profit has filled board positions, created a case for support and messaging, are determining how the for-profit and non-profit will work together, and are identifying strategic goals. Anderson further noted that they are developing a capital campaign, have received a $450K pledge from a private foundation for the giraffe barn, and are excited that the Georgia Zoological Society, Inc. is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce for the 2019 Holiday Tour as the philanthropic beneficiary of that program.
“[GSCP] will be a huge economic driver, not only for the local community but for the entire region,” said Conrads as he expects the project to integrate with and compliment both the Atlanta Zoo and the Georgia Aquarium. “It’s not just about the money. It’s also about what we can try to stop and accomplish … [it’s] all coming together and jelling so that everyone can feel very good about what we do and why we do it.”
– Editor’s Note: Staff writer Sarah Wibell is the niece of Mike Conrads.