School starts today at North Georgia College & State University, and its 6,000 students will have two new facilities to explore in between classes.
"We've been building some buildings," Bonita Jacobs, North Georgia's new president, said at Tuesday's Gainesville Kiwanis Club meeting. "We just opened a new bookstore and student health services area ... and a dining hall that has twice the capacity of the old building."
The two projects cost the university more than $25 million, according to a news release.
The Chestatee Building houses the Campus Connection Bookstore, the admissions office, Student Health Services and a Starbucks.
On the bottom level of the bookstore, students can shop for school supplies and textbooks. The top floor is home to North Georgia apparel, gifts and other school spirit items as well as tools and clothes for members of the cadet corps. Students can also watch the massive television while enjoying coffee and snacks from the shop in the building.
The new dining hall features seating for up to 1,200 people.
Students can choose from a large selection of cuisine for their meals - country cooking, grilled food, sandwiches, salads, desserts and Mongolian grill food, just to name a few. There's high-bar seating and regular tables, as well as an outdoor terrace.
"You can stand on the balcony of that building and (see) the most glorious view of our beautiful campus," Jacobs said.
The school will also be opening a new residence hall in January and doing renovations on some of the school's older buildings, such as the Hoag Student Center and Barnes Hall.
"We're in tough economic times and we have to be good stewards of our money, but we can't let the walls crumble around us," she said. Though the ribbons were cut on the new buildings last Thursday, the students will begin heavily using them as classes begin.
There are about 1,000 freshman and 500 new transfer students, Jacobs said. Fifteen percent of the student body is involved in the cadet corps. Roughly 17 percent of North Georgia students come from Hall County, a relationship the university wants to continue.
"We very much want Hall County to be a part of North Georgia ... That barbed wire fence is gone," Jacobs said. "It's gone symbolically and it's gone physically."