April 20, 2007

VSU Announces Plans for Campus Transformation

VALDOSTA - The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved plans for Valdosta State University to transform its main campus through a series of capital improvement projects at the monthly meeting held Tuesday and Wednesday, April 17-18, at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.

With an estimated construction cost of $120 million, these investments will not only improve campus life, but also provide for necessary increases in density and quality of service. The transformation will cover many aspects of VSU’s main campus including residence halls, parking decks, the student health center and the University Union.

“These projects have been in the planning stages for some time and we are excited to see them become a reality as we move on with architect and other team member selections,” Rob Kellner, Director of Auxiliary Services, said.

Plans call for two residence halls, Hopper and Georgia, to be demolished and rebuilt with a net gain of housing for 600 undergraduate students. The new Hopper Hall will offer four levels, holding additional beds, office space, multi-purpose rooms and even a 24-7 diner. Georgia will also boast additional beds; however, a specific floor plan has not been determined. Due to its historical significance, Reade Hall will be renovated to retain its 100 beds, as well as add more public gathering space. It will potentially become the residence hall for honors students. The total project will consist of 1100 beds; however, final configurations are still being determined.

Ambling University Development Group has been selected as the developer for all three residence hall projects with an estimated cost of $38-40 million. This group was also responsible for the renovation projects of Lowndes and Patterson as well as the construction of Centennial Hall. Ambling will use Niles-Bolton to design the new Georgia and Hopper halls and IPG for the renovations of Reade Hall.

Two parking decks will be constructed, each creating 1,000 spaces in addition to offices for Parking and Transportation, University Police, Auxiliary Services and potential retail rental space. The estimated cost is $35-$37 million, which will be funded through multiple revenue sources including a portion of the existing parking fee, proposed facility fees, sales of reserved parking spaces, revenue-generating auxiliary operations and special-event parking. The two primary locations under consideration include the parking lot adjacent to the Student Recreation Center and the east side of the Oak Street parking lot. The team of Tim Haahs, Cooper Carry and McCall & Associates will perform the design work on the parking structures.

The new student health center will be constructed in the parking lot between International Programs and the current Parking and Transportation office located on Georgia Avenue. It will be approximately 25,000 square feet square feet, a significant increase from the Farber Health Center’s current 6,900 square feet. The highly technical facility will improve the healthcare needs of VSU’s increasing student enrollment. The anticipated cost of $8-$9 million will be funded by per-semester student fees. Lott/Barber will serve as the architectural team for the student health center project.

The existing University Union will be replaced with a new 125,000 square foot student union. It will provide an impressive visual presence from Baytree Road for those approaching from Interstate 75, while on the opposite side opening into the pedestrian mall. The new union will include offices for Student Life, Student Government Association, Campus Activities Board, the Spectator and the Dean of Students office. There will be a large ballroom, auditorium, new bookstore and a food court that is anticipated to include the Loop Pizza Grill and other nationally known concepts. Other great additions include a game room and commuter student lounge. The anticipated cost will be $30 to $35 million, funded by student fees and revenue-generating auxiliary operations. Ellis Ricket will partner with WTW to serve as the architect for the student union project.

Dr. Kurt Keppler, Vice President for Student Affairs, anticipates the new student services facilities that are being planned and developed will transform student life on campus.

“When the Recreation Center was built five years ago, it was obvious how much that facility changed student involvement on campus,” he said. “I'm convinced the new student union, student health center, parking decks and the new Hopper and Georgia Halls, as well as a renovated Reade Hall, will do the same.”

The transformation will begin late this summer as Hopper Hall is demolished and rebuilt to provide additional residence hall space and office space in a living/learning environment. Construction on new athletic facilities, though not a part of this series of projects, will be underway at this time as well. By December, construction on at least one of the two planned parking decks will begin, followed by work on the second parking deck and the student health center. The new student union and Georgia and Reade halls will see changes by fall of 2008.

“This will be a metamorphosis for the campus as we move into our second century of success,” Kellner said. “It will provide the facilities we need to a growing student enrollment.”

VSU’s transformation of its main campus is one more step towards progress initiated as part of the university’s strategic and master planning. These changes will increase density and quality of life for students - a winning situation all around.

Planning continues on the estimated $73 million expansion project of VSU’s north campus. VSU was awarded a $400,000 federal grant for preplanning documents regarding the development of a Health Sciences and Business Administration facility, residence hall and food services facility.

More information will be available as additional decisions regarding the transformation are made. Look to the local media and www.valdosta.edu for further updates.

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