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Gainesville Campus expansion renovations more than halfway finished

The University of North Georgia has completed about 50% of renovations on its Gainesville Campus expansion project, which is on the former Lanier Technical College property.

Dr. Sharon Chalmers made a list and checked it twice as she thought about the needs of the nursing department in its newly designated space on University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus. The facilities department then worked with Chalmers to meet those needs.

"We made design decisions early on to serve our students better," said Chalmers, head of the nursing department at UNG. "For example, facilities agreed to make our classroom doors wider. This will allow us to bring a hospital bed into the classroom and immediately reinforce concepts students learn."

These simple modifications and many more are coming to fruition on the former Lanier Technical College property. Earlier this summer, the Georgia General Assembly approved $2.3 million in the fiscal year 2021 budget to furnish the five buildings next year. This will allow for a seamless transition between renovations and the building being put to use.

"Overall, we are about 50% done with the renovations on the Gainesville Campus expansion project," said Bill Moody, director of facilities and operations for UNG's Gainesville, Cumming and Oconee campuses. "And we are more than 80% complete with the nursing department."

That is music to Chalmers' ears. For years, nursing students have learned in multiple classrooms across campus and must traverse from classroom to simulation lab and skills lab on the Gainesville Campus.

"We did not have one centralized location on the Gainesville Campus, and this new building will bring us together," Chalmers said.

The nursing department is not alone in acquiring a central location. Information Technology (IT) Services will consolidate its offices and computer servers in one building.

Four other academic units will relocate to new homes on the northeast side of campus. They include communication, media and journalism (CMJ); Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis (IESA); Professional and Continuing Education (PCE); and visual arts.

The moves will allow programs to expand. For example, the Department of Visual Arts can offer the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree on the Gainesville Campus thanks to its new spaces in the Arts and Technology Building and the Sculpture Building.

"We will have triple the space that we had in Dunlap Mathis," said Dr. Pamela Sachant, head of the visual arts department. "We will be able to hold classes that we have not been able to hold in Gainesville before, for example, in digital arts. We will also be able to move from combined to separate studios for areas such as painting and drawing, and digital photography and graphic design."

Increased space will also benefit the CMJ department as it will have its own Film and Digital Media Building. Dr. Jeff Marker, head of the CMJ department, recently toured the building to see its progress.

"I can easily imagine what the completed building will look like and how we'll be able to use it. I could barely contain my excitement," he said. "With three additional sound stages, an additional computer lab, a color grading room, an audio recording suite, and more classrooms, we will offer students creative spaces and resources they won't find anywhere else in our region. I can't wait to move in."

Faculty, staff and students will have to wait a little while longer. Moody said construction is set to be finished by the end of January. Then the facilities department will plot out the logistics of moving in the new tenants and their furniture and equipment, which could happen in summer 2021.

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