As about 300 construction workers continued their jobs mostly without noticing him last week, Lanier Technical College President Ray Perren watched the progress on the school’s new campus and thought a little ahead to January 2019, when classes are set to begin there.
“It’s a dream come true,” Perren said Wednesday on the site off Ga. 365 and Howard Road. “Very few people get the opportunity to build an entirely new campus like this, so I view this as being a tremendous opportunity. This facility, when it’s done, will be a showcase for technical education in our state and really across the nation. Is it a challenge? Sure, but it’s also an absolute blessing to be able to be a part of this.”
Perren said the $131 million, 95-acre campus remains on schedule to be completed during the fall semester next year.
“We expect to cut the ribbon sometime in the fall of 2018,” he said. “We haven’t picked a date yet because the construction is so far out. We will start teaching in January 2019. We don’t want to move in the middle of a semester.”
And while those construction workers, which Perren said will eventually include about 600 people, continue to get the six buildings and the rest of the campus ready, school officials are working on other details needed for the project.
Among those details is an annexation request for 8.154 acres of the new campus where the school plans to build a conference center. That request is on the agenda Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board set for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Gainesville Justice Center.
The parcel proposed for annexation was donated to Lanier Tech and is located adjacent to the rest of the property that was purchased for the campus.
“Everything else is already in the city limits,” Perren said. “We contacted the city; we talked to the county. It’s not that we don’t want to be in the county, it just made sense for us to all be in one jurisdiction, so that’s the purpose of it. The city and the county governments have both been extremely good to us.”
Perren said the slab has already been poured for the 40,000-square-foot conference center. Plans call for a 20,000-square-foot ballroom that will seat 750 “banquet style” and 1,500 people “theater style.”
“It will be available for the community to use,” he said, adding that the center would be suitable for a variety events including corporate meetings, training sessions and weddings. “We have one at our Forsyth campus. It is used every day. We expect it to be used here, too. There are some great gathering spots in Gainesville, and we want to be one of them.”
Once completed, the six buildings on the new Lanier Tech campus will have about 335,000 square feet of space compared to the 180,000 square feet of space in buildings at the Oakwood campus. The total acreage of the new campus is more than double the 43 acres at Oakwood.
Perren said the new campus will have capacity for about 5,000 students. Currently, there are 2,700 students on the Oakwood campus and 3,700 on all Lanier Tech campuses.
Perren said the new campus will enhance Lanier Tech in many ways.
“First of all, the Oakwood campus has served us well for over 50 years, but to give you an example, the allied health building that we use now was built in the 1970s and, of course, allied health has changed tremendously in the time period,” he said. “The area that we use for computer science was constructed in the 1990s. Well, the internet wasn’t even around then. There’s just so many things that have happened. This gives us the opportunity to upgrade our labs, and it gives us an opportunity to have room to expand in the future as the college continues to grow.”
In addition to the conference center, the other buildings on the new campus are:
Allied health building, the only three-story building on the new campus, which will house all health programs,
Economic development building, which will house contract training, continuing education and the ammonia refrigeration program, which Perren said is “one of only a handful in the whole country” and brings in students from across the nation and several foreign countries,
Administration building with offices for Perren and other school officials, as well as the police department, campus library, student center and other offices, Instructional building with classroom space for a variety of curriculum programs including general education, business programs, computer science, adult education and early childhood education,
Technical and industrial building, which will have space for programs including the motorsports curriculum, welding, diesel technology and fire science.
Perren said there are also some outdoor instruction areas including a burn tower for the fire science program and a 12-acre commercial driving instruction area.
While Perren is excited about the opportunities with the new property starting in 2019, he is also glad the Oakwood campus will continue to have a purpose once Lanier Tech leaves.
“The beauty of this is when we leave the Oakwood campus, the University of North Georgia gets that, so it will still be used for educational purposes,” Perren said.
UNG’s Gainesville campus is located next to the current Lanier Tech campus. UNG President Bonita Jacobs said last month that a capital projects budget proposal approved by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents has $3 million earmarked for “planning and design funds for renovations to the Lanier Tech campus.” Jacobs said that funding was nearing final approval.