The Bartow site was the host of the board's strategic planning session, during which board members approved the naming of Cooper Carry Inc. as the design professional firm for the construction of a student center on the campus. College officials will now look to shortlist construction companies and select one that could potentially begin building the facility within a year.
"Hopefully by early next summer, June, July, we'll be breaking ground. We'll have a building coming out of the ground," GHC President Randy Pierce said outside Wednesday's meeting. "We're glad to have Cooper Carry on the job for us. They were the design team who designed this building, and we felt like we had a great working relationship, and we felt like, given that this was the second building, to have that kind of continuity with the design team was going to be good for us."
The estimated 55,000-square-foot student center is set to include physical education space, indoor recreation space, offices, food service facilities, an auditorium, student union spaces, student study areas, a book store and a student life center. The project has a total cost of $16.4 million to be funded through a public private venture.
Some funds for the facility will come from a mandatory $100 student support services fee; a share of the fee also will go toward renovating student support areas on other GHC sites.
Wednesday's meeting came a day after teams of board members visited Georgia Highlands and other USG sites -- Dalton State College, Gainesville State College, Georgia Gwinnett College and Georgia Perimeter College. Board members reported on their respective visits near the top of Wednesday's meeting.
"Their enrollment was flat over last year; however, this campus here was built for 1,500 people and they now have 2,400 students here," said board member C. Thomas Hopkins Jr., who was on the Georgia Highlands visit team. "They're way over capacity and they really need more space to get this place going."
In a presentation to board members, Pierce said his college still seeks more facility space following a decade of growing enrollment numbers. The college's student count this fall, however, was nearly unchanged over last fall, staying around the 5,200 mark.
"We think part of that is due to the fact that we have no capacity left here at Cartersville or in Marietta, and those, of course, are of the two fastest growing areas in terms of the metropolitan region," Pierce said.
While the college hopes to bolster its capacity in Marietta -- it maintains a learning site on the campus of Southern Polytechnic State University -- Pierce said officials may have to look outside that college to find more room for potential students since SPSU itself is growing.
"I don't think getting more space on their campus is in the realm of possibility in terms on the amounts of space that we really need," Pierce said. "So I think what we're going to have to do is look off that campus but very close to it, as close as we possibly can to the campus, and find some additional classroom space that is in commuting distance, so we can run buses back and forth, because we have a great relationship with Southern Poly, particularly in student amenities."
Locally, college leaders hope to get off the ground the student center as well as a second academic building for the Cartersville campus.
The second academic structure, Pierce said, is slated to be 60,000 to 65,000 square feet, compared to 100,000 square feet for the current academic building. He said design funds for the proposed academic offering are set to be on the Regents' fiscal year 2012 capital list. Should those funds get the green light, construction money could come in the next fiscal year.
"As this campus becomes a more student-friendly campus -- as we have food service and have these amenities that attract students -- then this is going to be a campus of choice, particularly if we get the second academic building out of the ground, this is going to start to really look like a college campus," he said. "I think you'll see this continue to grow and be a campus of choice."
In the meantime, Pierce said college officials may look to a nearby Cartersville location for additional classroom space should the need arise -- the Clarence Brown Conference Center, which is located across from the college on the opposite side of Ga. 20.
"We hope to make use of it," Pierce told the board, referring to the conference center. "We would like to start rotating graduation exercises and everything, so we think it's a facility that we'll be able to use. And if the other academic building doesn't get built pretty soon, we may be holding classes over there -- we may be renting some space."