Originally created 09/05/01

University plans slate of building projects



ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Georgia's $43 million Student Learning Center is the record-holder as the most expensive construction project in school history.

But a new set of projects set to begin soon on the university's East Campus could eclipse the $43 million price tag for the center. Still under construction, the tall roof of the Student Learning Center looms over South Lumpkin Street at the foot of Baxter Hill.

But as early as October, the university expects to begin work on a series of East Campus projects that will include six or seven new residence halls with a total of about 1,200 beds. The new buildings will go up on what is now a big parking lot near the Ramsey Student Center.

Besides the residence halls, preliminary plans call for a dining hall to feed East Campus residents and a 1,200-vehicle parking deck in addition to the 1,200-vehicle deck that's already in operation next to the Ramsey Student Center.

There may also be a new retail area attached to the deck, and perhaps even a child-care facility, according to early conceptual drawings.

A typical cost for student housing is about $30,000 a bed, but because of brick exteriors and other niceties in the new housing units, the price tag for the facilities will probably be higher than that, said Jo Ann Chitty, the executive director of the University of Georgia Real Estate Foundation.

The company chosen for the project will be expected to begin work in April.

But the first domino must fall sooner than that. A new 1,200-car parking deck must be complete before the rest of the work can begin, Ms. Chitty explained. Work on the new parking deck is scheduled to begin in mid- to late October and finish in April.

Then workers will tear up about 1,000 surface parking spaces on East Campus as they begin the rest of the project.

Details - including just how many beds and buildings there will be - will be worked out after a company is hired to design and build the projects, Ms. Chitty said.

But one thing is sure, said university Architect Danny Sniff. When the builders finish, the area will look more similar to a college campus, with trees, grass and open space, instead of what it is now - several large buildings floating in a pond of asphalt parking lot.

The new residence halls are scheduled to be finished by July 2003 - lightning speed compared with most state-related construction.

The speed is possible because of the "design-build" method the Real Estate Foundation will use, Ms. Chitty said. Instead of hiring an architectural company, then using their completed drawings to advertise for bids by a general contractor, the foundation will hire one company to do all of it, she said. "It's a way that we can fast-track and get it done in a timely manner," she said.

The land the buildings are on is owned by the state, but the buildings will be owned by the private real estate foundation. The university will manage the properties, Ms. Chitty said.

Officials want to double the university's housing capacity, from about 6,000 now to about 12,000, over the next several years.