First phase of new college campus underway in Fairburn

Tue, 07/29/2008 - 3:54pm
By: Ben Nelms

It has been 10 months since the Fairburn City Council approved the idea of constructing a college campus in the city’s downtown area.

Today, the first phase is well underway and classes at Georgia Military College (GMC) are set to start in the fall. Discussions to have other academic or technical schools located at the city-owned campus are underway.

GMC is currently advertising and scheduling classes for the new campus, City Administrator Jim Williams told council members July 28. Classes for the fall quarter will begin Oct. 13.

The four-acre campus will be located on the site of the old Dodson Lawn and Farm Equipment business on U.S. Highway 29 just east of the immediate downtown area. The first phase will consist of two 18,200-square-foot brick classroom buildings, a three-story 11,400-square-foot administrative building and two 2,000-square-foot retail buildings. The education center will also accommodate parking space for 150 vehicles and has room for expansion.

“The idea was to come up with something to fit with the historic downtown area and to get the historic atmosphere going,” Williams said previously of the classic architectural detail featured in the classroom buildings. “And it blends in with GMC’s Milledgeville campus. GMC was totally in awe of the project.”

The initial undertaking for Phase 1 includes construction of the first two classroom buildings along West Broad and two retail sandwich and coffee shops to be located between them.

Also included is the colonial-style administration building that will be centered in the rear of the property and patterned after the old Campbell County Courthouse.

Phase 2 of the education center will include construction of two additional classroom buildings to be located on either side of the administration building at the rear of the campus, also at 18,200 square feet each.

Fairburn and GMC have long been in discussions on relocation from the much smaller facility the school leased in Union City. The move to Fairburn’s new campus gives GMC the ability to expand significantly in the metro Atlanta area and have room to grow even further, Williams said.

The two-year program at GMC will give students time to become prepared to go on to a four-year college or university, he said.

Discussions with Georgia State University and Atlanta Tech are also underway as potential institutions that might lease the second classroom building in Phase 1. That building will be ready for occupancy by the beginning of 2009.

“We’re having serious conversations with Georgia State and Atlanta Tech. So we could have another academic school or a technical school here in Fairburn, though I feel like Atlanta Tech would be a good option since not everyone wanting additional education will go to an academic setting,” said Williams.

Williams said another reason to focus on Atlanta Tech was due to the educational balance desired by state Board of Regents, concerned that the entry of a four-year school in Fairburn might conflict with Clayton State University and West Georgia College satellite campuses located in Fayette and Coweta counties.

The decision to initiate the $10 million project was made by Fairburn council members Sept. 24, 2007. Williams at the meeting told council members discussions with GMC led to an agreement that the school would be interested in a 10-year lease on one of the classroom buildings. Peachtree City-based Group VI was subsequently hired to design and build the Phase 1 portion of the education complex.

The council originally considered using city reserves for the construction. That idea was ruled out in November once Williams announced that a restricted bond issue was available through Georgia Municipal Association at 3.5-4.0 percent interest. The city opted to finance the project since it receives 5 percent interest on money in its $12 million reserve account.

“The city’s money is generating 5 percent,” Williams said. “It would be foolish to take money from our reserves when we can get a loan for less money.”

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