A week after officials hailed the opening of a college campus off Pilgrim Mill Road, a National Guard Armory continues to take shape nearby.
The facility is across from the Cumming Aquatic Center and near the new University Center | GA 400 campus and the Department of Driver Services.
Everett Thompson, chief building official with the city of Cumming, said the armory will be more than five times the size of its current facility on Hwy. 20, west of Cumming.
“This new one will be about 104,000 square feet,” he said. “It’s significantly larger than the current one, which I’d say is probably around 20,000 square feet.”
The city of Cumming donated the land for the armory, but officials have previously said the estimated $26 million building will be built with federal (75 percent) and state (25 percent) money.
The general contractor on the project is Cooper Construction, although Thompson said a Department of Defense official is keeping close tabs on the building process.
“There’s a sergeant on site who’s looking over every aspect of it and talking detailed pictures of every step,” he said. “Everything in the construction process is extremely well documented.”
Thompson said the facility, which is slated to be complete by May, will serve as a regional readiness center for the National Guard.
“Basically that means if there’s a need as far as the guard is concerned in the general vicinity, this is where they’ll be deployed from,” Thompson said.
“The way I understand it, there will be just a small group that’s here on a regular basis. And then about once a month, they’ll have probably up to 300 people here.”
National Guardsmen can be deployed to a range of issues, including civil unrest, natural disasters or events such as terrorist attacks.
Thompson said the armory will provide many features for use by the guardsman.
“The facility has a lot of office space, several auditoriums and breakout rooms for training purposes, kitchens and living areas,” he said.
Other spaces include three vaults and more storage areas, vehicle repair bays and parking in the front and rear of the building.
But Thompson said the facility will be secure with visitor access limited.
“If people are coming up and wanting to get a tour, that won’t be happening,” he said. “There will be a lot of security in place.”
Thompson said the facility had some special guests a few weeks ago.
“Some of the Guard’s top brass flew in from Washington, D.C., on a Black Hawk just about three weeks ago and toured the facility,” he said. “They were all really impressed with it and with the area in general.
“It’s a very well-built facility, it’s built to stand next to forever.”