The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia voted last week to approve the acquisition. The decision is the culmination of nearly two years of work by government, education and medical officials.
The project, which will provide a new space for several degrees in Newnan, began with an offer by Newnan Hospital to donate the historic hospital building and surrounding 6.13 acres for use as an educational facility. The offer also included a $4.2 million donation to begin improvements.
Upon completion of the renovation project, UWG will move its Newnan-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing, education and business to the facility and will seek to expand its health care-related degree programs in Newnan. This will include additional nursing laboratories, patient simulators and classrooms.
In addition, the new facility will provide space for a large lecture hall, a library, a food court, a bookstore and additional administrative and faculty offices. It will also allow UWG to expand dual-enrollment opportunities for local high school students, particularly in the science, math and technology disciplines.
UWG will vacate its current Newnan site in Shenandoah Industrial Park off Bullsboro Drive and, upon receipt of a quit claim deed from Coweta County, will sell the property to fund additional renovations in the unfinished space.
“I am very excited about the significantly increased UWG presence in Newnan, made possible by the Board of Regents’ approval of the acquisition of the property, subject of course, to all the specified clearances,” said UWG President Dr. Beheruz Sethna.
The acquisition will be a four-way win for many stakeholders in Carroll and Coweta counties, as well as Georgia.
“This will be a win for the wonderful people of Newnan and Coweta, who will have increased access to first-class undergraduate and graduate programs; a win for UWG, which will have increased access to the great students of the area; a win for the state; and a win for the vibrancy and development of downtown Newnan,” he said.
The donation package from Newnan Hospital will be accepted by the city of Newnan soon, which will fund $15 million in much-needed renovations. All contracts and planning will be managed by the city, though the university will help guide the design process based on current and anticipated instructional needs.
“The benefits of having the University of West Georgia join the fabric of our downtown are far reaching and will be felt for generations,” said Newnan Mayor Keith Brady. “The most important thing that we can do to ensure that our children want to live and raise their families here is to provide an attractive quality of life. This expansion of the West Georgia campus helps achieve that goal.”
Upon completion of the first construction phase, which will create about 51,000 square feet of usable space and nearly 32,000 square feet of “warm shell” expansion space, the Board of Regents will purchase the property for $5 million.
State Rep. Lynn Smith of Coweta County has long supported the acquisition.
“It was an idea that became a vision that became a reality,” she said. “Something like this takes a lot of hard work by many dedicated people. And it takes tenacity. It takes people and organizations that are willing to invest time and energy in the community. Everyone involved has done just that and it’s because we’re doing something important here. We’re educating our future leaders.”
A few additional tasks must be completed before the project officially begins. The traffic study is complete and shows no impact. The city and county will sign the necessary legal agreements at a city council meeting on Jan. 22, at which time the council will also select a project manager. A board-stipulated environmental study is scheduled for completion on Jan. 31. In early April, the city will select an architect and create a design team to review the original floor plans and make any necessary changes. Based on current projects, UWG anticipates that it will begin serving students from the new site in early 2015.
“We’re just proud to have been a small part of this project,” said Tom Moat, chairman of Newnan Hospital Inc. “This is something that will allow a lot of kids to start or finish college right here in Newnan, and it will last a lot longer than any of us.”