After years of anticipation, the University of North Georgia will officially acquire the former Lanier Technical College property adjoining the university’s Gainesville campus on Monday, July 1.
And that sets the stage for UNG to begin renovating the decades-old buildings, a $19 million project with work likely to begin this fall and completed over 14 months.
“Acquiring this property is going to be transformative for this campus,” said Dr. Richard Oates, vice president of UNG's Gainesville campus.
Oates said he expects the former Lanier Tech property to be seamlessly integrated into the university’s burgeoning campus.
“It’s very consistent with our 10-year facility master plan,” he added. “It’s another piece of the puzzle.”
Plans to renovate and add to the vacated buildings have been in the works for some time as Lanier Tech built a new campus on Ga. 365 at Howard Road in North Hall and officially opened there this past January.
In 2018, UNG received $3 million in state funding to begin the initial design phase of the redevelopment.
For the fiscal year beginning this July, the state budget includes $13.6 million for the actual construction and renovation work.
Renovations will include everything from touch-ups to gutting buildings and completely overhauling them, according to UNG officials.
The third and final phase, which UNG expects to have funding for in the 2021 fiscal year state budget, will help purchase materials and equipment to furnish the new space.
UNG is acquiring seven buildings in all with a combined 165,000 square feet of instructional and administrative space to support the growing enrollment and student needs at the Gainesville campus. The new space will allow UNG to expand programs in communication, media and journalism; nursing; environmental and spatial analysis; the visual arts through the introduction of a Bachelor of Fine Arts on the Gainesville campus; professional and continuing education studies; and information technology services.
The departments were selected based on criteria established by a university committee, and included the fastest-growing programs; programs that need specialized labs; and programs needing geographic consolidation on campus (such as information technology services).
Additionally, UNG plans to open a health clinic for students at the renovated space, and that service is expected to be ready by January.
Oates said the demand for a health clinic on the Gainesville campus was something school officials heard frequently as they explored possibilities for converting the former Lanier Tech buildings.
“It became apparent that there may be a way to incorporate this into the Lanier Tech acquisition,” he added.
The walk-in clinic, funded through a mandatory $65 student fee, will include a pharmacy, with flu shots, allergy medications and free antibiotics available with no additional out-of-pocket expenses.
UNG projects that its enrollment at all campuses to reach 22,950 students by 2025, a 33 percent increase from the current figure, with the Gainesville campus leading the way.
Student enrollment at the Gainesville campus has grown to about 8,100 from 6,000 just six years after the birth of the University of North Georgia from the consolidation of North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College.
The growth has been led by a dramatic increase in the number of Hispanic students, many of whom are first-generation high school graduates, enrolling at the university.
“Gainesville by design is slated to be the fastest growing campus within the university,” Oates said.
The Lanier Tech acquisition also provides an additional 600 parking spaces.
And Oates said new apartment complexes proposed around the campus, many of which are aimed at students, “shows the community embracing us.”
Demand for new programs and opening space to serve projected growth is also compelling UNG officials to explore an expansion of the Gainesville campus gymnasium, development of a new science building and construction of a dedicated performing arts center.
“We are so appreciative of Lanier Tech working with us during this transition,” Oates added. “It’s not often to inherit a campus across the street.”