Old Candler Hospital to house new Savannah law school
By Adam Van Brimmer
The Forsyth Park building where doctors long plied their trade will become a training ground for lawyers starting this fall.
The John Marshall Law School is purchasing the original Warren Candler Hospital. The deal is scheduled to close Tuesday, one day before the Savannah Historic Board of Review considers renovation plans for the red-brick wing added to the historic building in 1955.
Assuming the board approves those plans, work will begin late next week and the wing will be ready to house the Savannah Law School when it opens in August.
“We want to create enough space for our first year while we do the more meticulous work on the historic structure,” the school’s dean, Richard Lynn, said. “We won’t need the full space for three or four years.”
The law school announced it was opening a Savannah location in December. The Candler site was speculated as its future home, especially after the school used the famous Candler oak tree as part of its logo.
Lease negotiations between Marshall’s leadership and the property owner, local businessman Reed Dulany’s Candler Complex LLC, were difficult and eventually led the law school to pursue purchasing the property.
The selling price is undisclosed. Dulany bought the site in May 2011 for $1.9 million from Atlantic Southern Bank, according to Chatham County property records. Atlantic Southern foreclosed on the property’s previous owner, now defunct Inman Park Properties, in 2009.
The old Candler Hospital complex has seen limited use since the hospital relocated to its Reynolds Street location in 1980. The facility housed the United States Customs Laboratory for a short period starting in 1983, as well as the Tidelands Community Mental Health Center. Tidelands closed in April 2000.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles was the most recent tenant. The board moved from the building that fronts Abercorn Street in August 2009. The Savannah Law School has no immediate renovation plans for the Abercorn building at this time, reserving it for future expansion, Lynn said.
The Candler complex was previously slated to be converted to a mixed-use development incorporating retail and office space along with rental apartments catering to young professionals. A Charleston-based real estate developer brought those plans to the Historic Review Board in May 2010 but later abandoned them.
The John Marshall Law School has no immediate plans to incorporate other uses, such as retail or office, into the complex. The original hospital building and wing include 70,000 square feet of space, and the Abercorn Street building measure more than 30,000 more.
The Savannah Law School’s first class will be limited to 95 students with plans to increase enrollment to 400 to 450 in following years. The school has received more than 400 applications in the last four months.
Making the old Candler complex the school’s home should help attract students, given its proximity to Forsyth Park, Lynn said.
“The park will be like the signature hole on a golf course,” Lynn said. “Law schools rarely have green space on campus, and Forsyth will be our campus. Every tourist who comes to Savannah will come to Forsyth and go home and tell their friends and family ‘You should see this law school we saw in Savannah.’”