On-campus student housing, two new parking decks and the conversion of a main campus road into a pedestrian walkway are among the needs identified for the Gainesville campus in the University of North Georgia’s master plan released this week.
University spokeswoman Kate Maine said the master plan identifies needs at four of UNG’s five campuses projected over the next 10 years. Only the the Blue Ridge campus near Ellijay, which opened in the fall of 2015, is not included in the plan.
Maine said the document is only a starting point for future projects. None of the projects has been presented to the Board of Regents for funding consideration. It is also based on a projection by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia showing a total enrollment growth at all five campuses rising from a little more than 18,000 now to 22,950 by 2025.
“We know that our institution is situated in one of the fastest-growing areas of Georgia,” Maine said. “That has attributed to a lot of growth at the Cumming campus, but also other campuses. We see more opportunities for growth at the Gainesville campus.”
The plan is the first one since the January 2013 consolidation of four campuses into the University of North Georgia. Prior to that the Gainesville campus was Gainesville State University and the Dahlonega campus was called North Georgia State College and University.
“It’s a different institution now,” Maine said of UNG. “We have more bachelor’s degree programs now.”
The Gainesville campus now offers more than 20 bachelor’s degree programs compared with just eight before the merger, Maine said.
Proposals for the Gainesville campus in the master plan include:
- On-campus student housing with 600-800 beds
- A 2,500-3-500-square-foot dining facility with 60-80 seats
- An expanded student union with 13,000-17,000 square feet
- Two parking decks
- Converting the current main road around campus into a pedestrian walkway
- Constructing a new loop road around the campus
- Two recreation facilities
- 20,000-square-foot library addition
- 3,000-square-foot addition to Strickland academic building
The plan assumes the current Lanier Technical College adjacent to Gainesville campus would become part of UNG once Lanier Tech moves to its new facility on Georgia Highway 365 near Howard Road northeast of Gainesville. The plan puts student housing near the Lanier Tech property. Currently, the nearly 8,000-student Gainesville campus is a commuter campus.
“It’s anticipated that UNG will receive that facility after Lanier Tech moves into its new campus in 2019,” Maine said. “There are some procedural things that have to happen at the state level to just cement that, but we fully expect that will happen. There is open space just beyond the Lanier Tech campus on the back side of Gainesville campus that would be an opportune place to put student housing.”
Maine added there is currently no timetable for any student housing at the Gainesville campus.
“It’s just been identified as a desire and there is a demand for it,” she said. “It has not been submitted as a priority item yet for the institution. We’ve only used this planning process to identify where that housing might go if it is ever approved.”
The master plan also addresses parking needs on the Gainesville campus with the two parking decks identified, each with approximately 800 parking spaces. Maine said the parking decks would eliminate some of the surface parking lots allowing the school to “keep a good amount of green space, which is something people find attractive about this campus.”
Roads are also part of recommendations for the Gainesville campus in the master plan. The document calls for Mathis Drive to become a pedestrian walkway and a loop road to be placed around the outer areas of the campus. Maine said students are now crossing Mathis Drive, “creating a bottleneck for traffic and for students trying to walk across.”
“The proposal is that the current road would become a pedestrian walkway and that parking would be pushed to the outer perimeters of campus,” she said. “This loop road would come behind the current Lanier Tech campus and come over to Mundy Mill Road. With DOT projects, they’re looking 10-15 years out. It’s just a concept right now that we need to have in their thought process.”
A larger student union would provide more space for the 73 student organizations on the Gainesville campus, according to Sylvia Carson, spokeswoman at the Gainesville campus.
Maine said the next step in the process with the master plan is making people in the university and community aware of the needs. She added that efforts are beginning to “think creatively” about raising funds privately in addition to public funds that may be requested.