Published Sunday, February 03, 2013
From Staff Reports
Plans are moving forward for the new Newnan campus of the University of West Georgia, and a lot of people are excited about that project – state leaders and university administrators, as well as Newnan officials.
The campus will be moving from its current location at the Shenandoah Industrial Park to the historic Newnan Hospital campus on Jackson Street. The University System Board of Regents voted to approve the purchase of the property on Jan. 8, and the Newnan City Council approved contracts to move the project forward on Jan. 22.
State Rep. Lynn Smith is a longtime supporter of the project. “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.”
Smith said bringing the project to this point has required “people and organizations ... willing to invest time and energy in the community.”
Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna, the university president, said he is “very excited about the significantly increased UWG presence in Newnan.”
The new campus close to downtown “will be a win for the wonderful people of Newnan and Coweta, who will have increased access to first-class undergraduate and graduate programs.” He said the change will also be a good for West Georgia, giving the university “increased access to the great students of the area.”
“I’m pleased that we’ve come this far and excited about getting the project under way,” said Keith Brady, Newnan’s mayor. “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.”
Cathy Wright, director of UWG’s Newnan Center, comes from a Coweta family.
“Native Newnanites like me have a special connection to the old Newnan Hospital and its long history. It’s where we were born, where our children were born, where many of us worked as ‘candy stripers’ or ‘blue skirts’ during our high school years. It has been an important part of Newnan and Coweta County since it was first built in 1925,” Wright said.
The decision to relocate the Newnan Center is the result of “nearly two years of planning by key stakeholders” at the Board of Regents, West Georgia, the City of Newnan, Coweta County and Newnan Hospital, Inc., according to UWG spokeswoman Maggie Worth.
Newnan Hospital, Inc. owned the hospital building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the surrounding 6.13 acres. Newnan Hospital. Inc. offered to donate the property to the city of Newnan “for use as an educational facility,” Worth said.
The city has accepted that gift. The city also has agreed to fund $15 million in renovations, and Newnan Hospital, Inc. is giving $4.2 million to begin improvements.
“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,” Worth said.
The first construction phase will create about 51,000 square feet of usable space and nearly 32,000 square feet of “warm shell” expansion space. When that work is done, the Board of Regents will purchase the property for $5 million.
West Georgia “will then vacate the current Newnan site in Shenandoah Industrial Park,” Worth said. After issuance of a quit claim deed from Coweta County, the Shenandoah property will be sold “to fund additional renovations in the unfinished shell space,” Worth said.
At the end of phase one, the university will move its Newnan-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing, education and business to the Jackson Street facility and will seek to expand its health care-related degree programs in Newnan. There are plans for additional nursing laboratories, patient simulators and classrooms.
“The Newnan/Coweta area is fast becoming a respected health care focal point, and a pool of highly educated, well-prepared nurses is a vital component to the community’s continued growth in this critical-need field,” Worth said.
The new facility will also include 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,” according to Worth.
In early April, the city is slated to select an architect and create a design team to review the original floor plans and make any necessary changes.
Dr. Jon Anderson, West Georgia’s deputy provost, has been leading the project for the university for two years. “The easiest part has been working with all the people,” he said, adding that everyone involved has been “very open and willing to engage in dialogue.”
The biggest challenges have been “to bring them to consensus and then finding a legal structure to make it all happen,” Anderson said.
Chancellor Hank Huckaby, the Georgia Board of Regents and Regents staff members Lee Richey, Steve Wrigley, John Brown, Joe Fucile and Peter Hickey were involved in the process. Worth said Lynn Smith’s efforts “have helped UWG reach this important milestone.”
Worth mentioned longtime UWG boosters in Newnan – Bill Williams, Scott Wilson, Bobby Welch, Winston Dowdell, Inez Slaton – for their efforts. She also mentioned the work of Moat, the board of Newnan Hospital, Inc., Brady and the city council and city officials Cleatus Phillips and Hasco Craver.
County Administrator Theron Gay, the county commissioners and the UWG-Newnan Advisory Board also were involved in the process. Consultants from Cooper-Carry Architects and Jones Lang LaSalle played a role.
Piedmont Newnan Hospital CEO Michael Bass and Piedmont staff “have also been vital to this endeavor,” Worth said.
In addition to Anderson, West Georgia leaders – past and present – who have played a role in the plans for the new center include Brendan Bowen, Maurice Townsend, Steve McCutcheon, Tim Hynes, Don Wagner, Carol Goodson, Scott Stallings, Rob Tornow, Jim Sutherland, Michael Horvath, Melanie Clay, Kathryn Grams and Wright.
Worth said Dr. Steve Barker, Coweta County School System superintendent, and Mark Whitlock, CEO of Central Educational Center, “initiated and continue to work toward a larger role for UWG in dual enrollment in Coweta County.”