Thousands making their daily commute on Ga. 365 are seeing a game-changer take shape before their eyes at the Howard Road intersection.
After a recent visit to check on the progress, Lanier Technical College President Ray Perren reported that despite recent rain delays, the project remains on schedule. He said the foundations have been poured for six buildings that will sit on almost 100 acres of college property. Four of the six buildings are standing, he added.
“It’s on target for us to cut the ribbon in the fall of 2018,” he said.
When the campus opens, Perren expects initial enrollment to be about 3,000.
“The campus is being built for 5,000,” Perren said. “So, we will have room to grow out there. But we expect that growth to happen fairly soon after we arrive. I’m not saying we’re having 5,000 students two years from now, but certainly we will be increasing in our enrollment as we move into that campus.”
Perren appeared somewhat amused at the question of how a project this size will affect the area.
“I know that the YMCA is there, the RaceTrac (gas station) is there and we’re there,” he said. “I fully expect that area will develop, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you what would go there. I will tell you that beyond that intersection, beyond that area, I think that the economic impact of Lanier Tech will be felt throughout Hall County and all of Northeast Georgia.”
The project sits on city of Gainesville jurisdiction. When he talks about a topic that excites him, Mayor Danny Dunagan has a tendency to open his eyes wide — the advent of the new campus excites him.
“It’s going to be a huge economic development generator,” Dunagan said.
The mayor believes the project already is having an impact on the growth taking place down the road from the campus location at the exit to Limestone and Jesse Jewell parkways.
“There’s news all the time about something there opening by Kroger,” Dunagan said. “I think that project is already influencing the development going on at Limestone.”
Gainesville planning manager Matt Tate identifies the new Lanier Tech campus as a regional use project that will attract people from all of Northeast Georgia.
Tate said the campus and adjacent property in the city is zoned for light industrial, which allows for commercial and less intensive industrial use. He anticipates the surrounding area may include a mixture of residential and commercial development.
Tate said nearby unincorporated property is zoned Agricultural Residential IV, which would allow low density residential and agricultural uses. Nonetheless, because Ga. 365 is an economic gateway, he expects the area to continue attracting industrial development as well.
“Given the sheer size of the project and the many facilities and programs that will be part of the campus ... it is expected that this will have an economic impact to Gainesville and Hall County,” Tate said.
Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey has not doubt of what the future has in store.
“You put so a many young people in that close proximity, there’s going to be certain service providers that will be close to them,” Lackey said.
Lackey’s point of reference is how the Mundy Mill Road area in Oakwood took off after the consolidation of the former Gainesville State College into the University of North Georgia in 2013.
The only thing Lackey sees slowing growth a little might be accessibility challenges on Ga. 365, where you can’t have the curb cuts found on Mundy Mill Road.
“That’s the difference if you look at Mundy Mill and this project, which may help control the growth a little bit,” Lackey said.
A study by the University of Georgia commissioned by the state’s Technical College System of Georgia about five years ago estimated that for every dollar of tax revenue spent on the college system, $12 returns to the state treasury, Perren said.
Perren offered another example of what the impact will be once the 316,000-square-foot facility is completed at a cost of $131 million.
“I was talking to someone who told me that 40 years ago Mundy Mill Road, where we are now, was a dirt road,” Perren said. “See what’s here now.”