The new Lanier Technical College won’t be just an educational institution for some 2,700-plus students.
Area officials believe the $131 million campus, on 95 acres off Ga. 365 across from Howard Road, also will be an economic engine for Hall County.
The school, expected to start classes at the new campus in January 2019, will feature six buildings with a combined 335,000 square feet, compared to the 180,000 square feet on 43 acres at the current campus it shares in Oakwood with the University of North Georgia. There will be capacity for about 5,000 students.
Work at the campus is on schedule, Lanier Tech President Ray Perren said during a tour earlier this month. Each day, 400-600 workers are busy at the campus.
Workers “will be setting out trees and shrubs in the next few weeks, taking advantage of the spring building,” he said.
And there’s room for expansion, Perren said as he has looked over the campus from a set of construction trailers just off Lanier Tech Drive.
“In fact, where we’re standing now could be another building,” he said. “We’ve already formed the pads for two more buildings.”
The college will feature a wide variety of programs, including allied health, continuing education, ammonia refrigeration, general education, business, computer science, adult education, early childhood education, motorsports, welding, diesel technology and fire science.
The new campus “will give Lanier Tech high visibility and will look like the technology that’s being taught there,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “The intangible is that it will elevate in the area the perception … and the value of technical education and training.”
And for Perren, the prospect of opening a new campus is personally exciting.
“No one gets to do this,” he said. “It’s a very rare thing in the country.”
Among the new buildings is a 40,000-square-foot conference center with a 20,000-square-foot ballroom that can comfortably house 750 people.
“We’ll have an opportunity to have much larger meeting space available for the business community and community at large,” Evans said.
It could work well for trade shows and job fairs, such as one the chamber held March 21 at the Gainesville Civic Center.
“We’re very limited at the civic center because of the space,” Evans said. “We’re running into capacity that the new location could probably help address.”
Real estate expert Frank Norton Jr. has said he hopes his annual economic forecast is “one of the very first events” in the new conference center next January.
“We’ve moved the event around, trying to go to ground zero for the electricity that’s going on in that area,” he said.
“Our hope is the community will use this (center), but (Lanier Tech) will also use it for school functions,” Perren said.
The campus also will have a quadrangle, or open space between four buildings, that could be used for graduation ceremonies. It’s designed to seat 5,000 people. Also, the conference center will overlook an amphitheater seating 3,000 people.
Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said he believes the new campus “will obviously bring with it a new traffic dynamic to the northeast side of Gainesville.”
Interconnecting roads flowing west of Ga. 365 toward Gainesville are Howard, White Sulphur and Jesse Jewell Parkway, dumping traffic into the New Holland community.
“In addition to the numerous students, young people and Lanier Tech faculty and employees that will now be traveling to this new destination, there will in short time be the retail and service companies that will follow to serve this new insertion of people,” Lackey said.
The main intersection of Ga. 365 at Howard and Lanier Tech Drive, which will flow into the campus, has a traffic signal and turn lanes.
The Georgia Department of Transportation “can make adjustment to the signal timing when the campus opens, but we do see a future need for transportation improvements in the area,” Lackey said.
“Many, if not most, of these improvements lie outside the city limits of Gainesville, so we will need to rely on our partnerships with Hall County and GDOT to plan and coordinate these future improvements.”
Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said Hall is planning for anticipated growth at the campus.
Public Works “has been working with an engineering firm hired by the school to review several concepts for road improvement projects in the area,” she said.
“We look forward to working with the various entities involved to come up with additional long-term solutions to address whatever impact the new campus may have.”