After seven years of financial planning, Gainesville State College administrators on Friday celebrated the ground breaking of the college’s much-needed new academic building.
The five-story, $37.5 million building will nearly double the number of classrooms at the Oakwood campus to 81 rooms serving more than 6,000 students, Gainesville State President Martha Nesbitt said. Gainesville State is one of the fastest growing schools of the 37 institutions in the University System of Georgia.
Nesbitt said at the ground breaking ceremony that she has been asking the University System of Georgia Board of Regents for the college’s fourth academic building since 2002. The General Assembly appropriated funds for the building last spring, and because of the poor market, it took longer than usual for the state to sell the bonds needed to finance the project.
"We are so glad this day has finally come," Nesbitt said. "... It’s definitely a day of celebration."
The 130,000-square-foot facility will be constructed near the Hugh Mills Physical Education Complex and the new student parking deck. It will house the college’s humanities and fine arts, education, business and health and wellness departments. The building also will have a student commons area, course-specific labs and faculty offices. It will be the tallest building in Oakwood.
Paul Glaser, vice president of business and finance at Gainesville State, said the forthcoming academic building marks the beginning of a new era for the college.
"Its purpose is to hook together the past 40 years of this campus with the future of this campus," he said.
Andrew Wilkinson, student president at Gainesville State, said he is looking forward to having the academic building because it will increase students’ ability to get a seat in the classes that they need to graduate. He said, too, that students are excited to have classrooms with windows, which are absent from many of the college’s existing classrooms.
Nesbitt said by the time this building is completed in May 2011 and open for classes the fall semester of 2011, the college likely will have swelled with thousands more students and will be in need of yet another academic building. Plans for it are on the horizon.
David Hilker, program manager for the Board of Regents, said the university system is expected to take on 100,000 additional students over the next 10 years.
"It’s schools like Gainesville State where that growth occurs," he said. "It’s not going to be (the University of) Georgia or Georgia Tech. It’s going to be here, and they’re experiencing that already."
Nesbitt said even with the new building coming, Gainesville State will request funds this spring for an expansion of its overcrowded science technology building.
She said the campus has plenty of room for up to five new buildings to accommodate student growth.
"We are so fortunate that our founding fathers bought quite a bit of land," she said.