City holds groundbreaking for UWG campus
by Celia Shortt
Monday was a historic day for the city of Newnan, as it and the University of West Georgia (UWG) broke ground on the new Newnan campus at the site of the old hospital on Jackson Street.
“This is something we have waited for for a long time,” said Newnan Mayor Keith Brady. “A lot of people have put a lot of hard work into this project.”
Mayor Brady thanked different individuals and groups for their hard work in this project, including the Newnan Hospital Board, city and county officials, Georgia Representative Lynn Smith, and UWG.
“I would like to welcome you for the last time to Newnan Hospital,” said Tom Moat, president of the hospital board. “It’s been a pleasure. It’s an honor for me to be here for this ‘rebirth.’ I was born here, so it’s truly an honor.”
UWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero echoed Mayor Brady’s sentiments about the significance for the day, but also voiced some goals about UWG’s newest campus.
“This is an exciting day not only for UWG, Newnan, but for all of Coweta County,” he said. “We are excited to see this community as part of the Wolfpack. We are committed to having a robust presence in Newnan.”
Coweta area educators were also in attendance and excited about the increased opportunities the new campus will bring to Newnan and its students.
“This is a landmark day for us,” said Coweta County School Superintendent Dr. Steve Barker. “ When you have these types of seamless opportunities, it will allow your community to grow.”
“This is a tremendous day for this community, a chance to repurpose this building and the chance to increase the higher education opportunities for this community,” said Mark Whitlock, CEO of the Central Education Center in Newnan. “It’s a win-win for the community.”
This “rebirth” of the Newnan Hospital into a college campus means more opportunities and jobs in Newnan and more reasons for people to stay in the community.
“This project is important to me because I went to UWG and commuted,” said Moat. “This will mean that kids and adults do not have to commute to Carrollton. They can get everything they need right here in Newnan. Over the long term, it will be important because people will stay and be a part of the community.”
The $15 million hospital redevelopment project will provide four-year higher education degrees in Newnan and expand Newnan’s current UWG campus in Shenandoah Industrial Park. This school year, UWG had a record enrollment of almost 12,000 students.
According to Dr. Marrero, UWG is on target to have 1,200 students enrolled at the new Newnan campus when classes start there in January 2015. By January of 2018, his goal is to have 3,000 students at the campus.
“To have a project with city, county, and Georgia Board of Regents involvement is extraordinary,” said Marrero. “This campus heralds a robust presence for the university that we are already committed to. The physical presence will only further our commitment to see a full array of offerings.”
Dr. Marrero also commended Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna, UWG’s former president, for his work at UWG and on this project.
“Dr. Sethna’s leadership is the reason we are here today,” he said.
The demolition abatement on the old hospital facility will begin around the beginning of October. The $15 million project is currently on budget and on schedule to start classes in January 2015.
The Newnan Hospital Redevelopment Project is a partnership between the city of Newnan, the Newnan Hospital board, Coweta County, UWG, and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
The project will move and expand the current Newnan campus housed at the Shenandoah Industrial Park. The redevelopment will increase instructional space from 15,000 square feet to 51,000 square feet in the first phase of construction. The second phase will bring the total instructional space to 87,000 square feet. Included in the plans is a new lecture hall.
In addition to the expansion, the selection of course offerings will also expand.
In terms of economic impact for the community, according to the UWG’s Center for Business and Economic Research, this project will bring $21 million to Newnan during the constructional phase and create 176 jobs. Overall, it is expected to generate between $1.4 million and $3.4 million in the community each year.
The plan calls for preserving original historic parts of the hospital buildings. The Georgia Board of Regents voted Jan. 8, 2012, to approve purchasing the property, and the Newnan City Council approved contracts to move the project forward on Jan. 22.
The Newnan Hospital Board will donate all the land and give about $4.2 million toward the project. Coweta County will give slightly more than $500,000 over a 10-year period. Once the project is completed, the Board of Regents will buy the complex for $5 million.