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Newton board gives final approval to German foundation's conference center
Joachim Herz Foundation
One of Germany's largest private foundations plans to convert the former residence of a longtime Newton County landowner for use by nonprofits. (Special Photo)

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County nonprofits will be able to share a new event center with German students interning with U.S. companies following action by the Board of Commissioners last week.

The Board approved a Conditional Use Permit Tuesday, March 21, that clears the way for the Germany-based Joachim Herz Foundation to renovate a former residence into a daytime special events and conference center adjacent to Little Springs Farm at 92 Moores Farm Road.

The developer plans to renovate the former home’s interior, add a porch and build a detached pavilion and parking area for 35 vehicles, said county Development Services director Shena Applewhaite.

Much of the land off Georgia Hwy. 36 is leased to a farming operation called Little Springs Cattle Co. However, 7 acres on which the former home and private airstrip are located will be used for the conference center, said Paul Ludwig of Atlanta-based Coro Realty Advisors.

He told county commissioners that the center will primarily be used to help German students who travel to the U.S. for three-month business internships “get oriented to America.”

The center also will be available for use by other nonprofit organizations, Ludwig said.

Renovations will include creation of a large room for meetings and shared meals in the former residential wing. The former bedrooms will be converted into breakout spaces for smaller sessions, the Foundation previously announced.

A new entrance to the property from Moore's Farm Road will utilize the former airstrip, Ludwig said.

Changes to the former residence will not affect the cattle operation or leases of parts of the land held by some hunting clubs, officials have said.

Commissioner Stan Edwards said he had spent time on the farm site in his youth and remembered it for its natural beauty. He predicted the conference center will be a “great place.”

The overall 2,600-acre site is owned by the Herz Foundation, a nonprofit established after the death of businessman and landowner Joachim Herz in 2008. 

It is one of the largest private foundations in Germany and funds education, science and research in economics and the natural sciences as well as the personal development of teens and young adults, according to information from the Hamburg-based organization. 

Since 2017, additional funding has been granted to support research projects in the fields of medicine, law and engineering technology, according to the Foundation. 

Herz was a German investor in real estate throughout the Southeast. He and his wife bought the land on Moores Farm Road in the 1980s and they split their time between residences in Germany and Little Springs Farm. 

He is buried on the property and the conference center housed in the 4,500-square-foot “mid-century, modern”-styled home will overlook his grave, said Ludwig, who represented the Foundation in support of the permit.