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The changing face of Brenau: University to celebrate 135 years with new buildings

POSTED: April 6, 2014 11:24 p.m.

A typical dorm room is seen inside Brenau University's Van Hoose Hall. The university is planning major renovations side several buildings on campus as well as constructing new sorority buildings.

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Brenau University President Ed Schrader is marking off the days until the end of the school year.

“You can always put something off another year and another year,” he said. “But we’re riding a crest of enrollment right now. Each year’s freshman class is larger than the last, so we’re running out of dorm space.

“So if we’re running out, instead of trying to rebuild some old things, why not build some new ones?”

The “new ones” are getting closer to reality, with an $8 million budget for new residence construction, a human anatomy laboratory and a field house for the university’s future athletics park.

Brenau’s Board of Trustees approved all plans at a March meeting, preceding the university’s 135th anniversary celebration gala.

In addition to $8 million in bonds to cover the changes, board members approved an unprecedented $54.5 million budget — the first time Brenau’s budget has exceeded $50 million.

One of the key parts of the new building plan will be the addition of new sorority houses and residence halls, with sorority house construction expected to begin in May or June.

On Prior Street, the houses of Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Delta Pi, Phi Mu and Zeta Tau Alpha will be torn down, with new construction taking their place.

“Nostalgia aside, there is no historical significance to the affected buildings,” university spokesman David Morrison said. “It was costing as much to maintain the old buildings on an annual basis as it would cost to service debt to replace them with new ones.”

A new general residence hall is planned for the property across the street from Brenau’s library. Renovations and updates are also planned for portions of Van Hoose Hall, with some of the older rooms being repurposed for storage or offices, Schrader said.

Sophomore Shainie Cox, a resident assistant in the school’s West Hall student rooms, said a new hall would require more assistants, but she’s looking forward to the changes which could be in place by her senior year.

“I’m kind of excited about it,” she said. “That means that (at) Brenau, we can have more people here. Not just more students coming to the school and commuting, but residing in Brenau and being more a part of the community.”

While not in a sorority house, she said those students are especially looking forward to the new buildings.

“The floors are really creaky and some of the doors don’t close correctly,” Cox said about the sorority buildings.

“A lot of people complain that their beds aren’t comfortable, and that they think something’s growing out of their ceiling or something is going to fall.”

The changes to the residential portion of Brenau is a way to meet expectations of the university’s stakeholders, including students and their families.

“To deliver quality academic programs requires that those expectations be met,” Board of Trustees Chairman Peter Miller said.

“They’re met, really, in providing facilities, providing academic outcomes, providing a price that is commensurate with the ultimate deliverables.”

Also part of this capital improvements plan is the expansion of a human anatomy lab for the university’s growing programs in allied health care professional preparation, and new facilities for the recently-added athletic fields.

The land, adjacent to the Milliken & Co. mill in unincorporated Hall County, was donated by Pacolet Milliken Enterprises Inc.

“As of next year we’ll have 165-175 athletes participating in over 12 sports. That’s an increase,” Schrader said. “Ten years ago, we had 42 athletes. So we’ve quadrupled our number of athletes in a number of sports.”

The plan approved by board members adds construction of a field house to the donated land.

“Right now ... we’re playing softball on a city field that we’re paying rental on, and we play soccer on a county field that we pay rental on,” Schrader said.

“So why not save the money that we’re paying for rental and put it into upkeep of our own field?”

This expansion is the latest in a string of announcements from the Gainesville-based university, including news of an additional campus to be based in Jacksonville, Fla.

The lease for the building has been signed, and the university is waiting on a license to provide higher education in Florida. Depending on when the paperwork is complete, Schrader is optimistic the first Florida students will be enrolled in 2015.

“We’ll be ready to go as soon as we get the lights on,” he said.

But along with the changes outside of Gainesville, Schrader continues to champion visitors to the city, especially with the opening of the modern art exhibit in the Brenau Downtown Center.

“The Manhattan Gallery ... is a permanent collection of some of the finest modern art in the United States,” he said.

“It’s here and available for the city of Gainesville and North Georgia residents to come visit and see. We have from wall-to-wall, front-to-back, some of the best modern art in the United States, better than many museums. 

“And we did this to try to draw more people to downtown Gainesville and into the university to see this art.


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