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Campus much closer
College site nearly ready in Cumming
Campus WEB 1
Construction workers apply the finishing touches to the top floor of the new University Center | GA 400 campus in Cumming. Background left is the Cumming Aquatic Center. - photo by Autumn Vetter

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Construction workers were busy Friday putting the finishing touches inside the new University Center | GA 400 campus.

They’ll soon move out, making room for more than 400 students registered for the opening semester of the new campus, which is a joint project between Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

Sherman Day, executive director of the center, said staff members have begun moving into the 38,000-square-foot, $7 million facility on Pilgrim Mill Road, near the Cumming Aquatic Center and Georgia Drivers Services Office.

“The fire marshal has given us an occupancy certificate that allows us to move furniture and faculty in and to move around without hard hats on,” he said. “Final occupancy will come … about Aug. 10.

“Everything’s ready to go.”

While a ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for Aug. 16, classes will begin on Aug. 13.

The Georgia Board of Regents earlier this year approved the consolidation of North Georgia and Gainesville State into one institution that will be called University of North Georgia.

The two schools officially will become that university in January.

In the meantime, Day said classes would be held under the two universities with Gainesville students starting Aug. 13 and North Georgia students on Aug. 20.

Day is pleased so many students are learning about the center.

“Having over 400 students register for fall semester has exceeded our wildest dreams,” he said.

Day noted the facility makes good use of its space.

“This is built solely for function. This is going to be the most functional building that you can imagine,” he said. “Everything has a purpose and it’s all usable space.”

Bryan Rhoden, project superintendent with Winter Construction, agreed, saying the building provides a lot of bang for the buck.

“It’s a different type of space because of everything we’re getting out of it for the price,” he said. “Compared to what we build for most colleges and schools, which are like $20 to $25 million, and this is for a little over $7 million, you get so much space in it.”

Day said that space includes eight classrooms on the first floor, which will be used primarily for core education classes.

There are also several others on the second floor, which will be used primarily for the campus’ associate of nursing degree and master of business administration programs, as well as continuing education courses.

Day said all of the classrooms will feature the most current technological learning tools.

“Everything in this building is state-of-the-art IT and AV, so you’ll see screens, everything will have projectors, TVs, smart boards,” he said. “So it’s technically as advanced as you can be until the next building is built.”

The North Georgia Team MBA program has been housed for several years on the fourth floor of Cumming City Hall and will be relocated to the new campus in the next couple of weeks, Day said.

That program is an example of the city of Cumming’s strong support of the college, Day said, noting that Mayor H. Ford Gravitt was a “driving force” behind getting the campus.

“You really can’t talk about it without mentioning him,” Day said. “This is a project that the mayor really is responsible for.”

The city provided $4 million for the new campus, which it loaned to a college foundation group that will repay the money over the course of about 10 years.

An additional $3 million came from the state.  

Besides classroom space, the campus also boasts a large “learning center,” or library, and a multi-purpose room that can be used for instruction or by the community.

There’s also a “food pod” area, which will sell items like sandwiches and salads to students, and a front desk that Day called a “one stop shop.”

“If you have questions about your financial aid or you lost your [student] ID or anything like that, this will be the central location,” he said.

The campus has a 100-spot parking lot, which Day said will initially be supplemented by an adjacent gravel lot.

“I suspect by the end of the first year or two, we’ll have a second parking lot,” he said.

While there are a few, the campus doesn’t dedicate much space to offices.

“Nothing’s fancy,” Day said. “It’s very efficient … you look at the size of the offices and they’re not palatial, but they’re adequate.”

In the way of administration, Day said the campus will have himself, an assistant director and an administrative assistant.

“We’ll also staff [the administrative area] with student workers, so that will give them a good opportunity to have some income while they’re in school,” Day said.

Most of the campus’ instructional faculty will be housed at the two schools’ main campuses in Dahlonega and Gainesville, although there will be two nursing and two education instructors that will teach only at the Cumming site.

But the campus does offer several “very small offices” for visiting faculty if they need a space to meet one on one with a student, Day said.

Day’s “elated” to see the building constructed and on track for student use.

“We were on a fast track to get this open and we’re just delighted that it’s going to be ready and very functional,” he said.