Monday, January 14, 2013
The University of West Georgia is going West — three miles west — to downtown Newnan. On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia voted to approve the acquisition of the real property at 80 W. Jackson St., the site of the historic Newnan Hospital facility. The decision is the result of nearly two years of planning by key stakeholders at the Board of Regents, UWG, the City of Newnan, Coweta County and Newnan Hospital, Inc., all of whom are committed to strengthening the area’s workforce through improved access to education for both traditional and non-traditional students in the Newnan area.
House Representative Lynn Smith has long supported the acquisition. “It was an idea that became a vision that became a reality,” she explained. “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.”
The project began with a generous offer by Newnan Hospital, Inc. 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. This donation package will soon be accepted by the City of Newnan, 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. 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. UWG will then vacate the current Newnan site in Shenandoah Industrial Park and, upon receipt of a quit claim deed from Coweta County, will sell the property to fund additional renovations in the unfinished shell space.
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 facility and will seek to expand its healthcare-related degree programs in Newnan. This will include additional nursing laboratories, patient simulators and classrooms because the Newnan/Coweta area is fast becoming a respected healthcare 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. 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.
University President Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna is among those celebrating the Board’s decision today. “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. 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!”
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 projections, UWG anticipates that it will begin serving students from the new site in early 2015.
“I’m pleased that we’ve come this far and excited about getting the project underway,” said Keith Brady, mayor of Newnan. “The benefits of having the University of West Georgia join the fabric of our downtown are far reaching and will be felt for generations. 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.”
UWG-Newnan has operated from its current site in the Shenandoah Industrial Park for 22 years. This property, which originally belonged to Georgia Power Company, was purchased by Coweta County in 1998 and donated to the University of West Georgia. In addition to core curriculum classes and joint enrollment for high school students, UWG-Newnan offers two full undergraduate degree programs (Early Childhood Education and Nursing) and five graduate degree programs (Master’s in Early Childhood, Special Ed, and Secondary Education; Master’s in Business Administration; and Specialist in Educational Leadership). Forty percent of the Newnan Center’s students reside in Coweta County, and undergraduate enrollment has quadrupled over the past ten years.
“I am thrilled that the project has finally been approved,” said Cathy Wright, Director of the Newnan Center. “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. I'm ecstatic that it will be transformed into a downtown college campus.”
The University extends gratitude to Chancellor Hank Huckaby, the Georgia Board of Regents, and staff members Lee Richey, Steve Wrigley, John Brown, Joe Fucile and Peter Hickey for supporting the growth of UWG-Newnan and also gratefully recognizes Georgia House Representative Lynn Smith for her contributions, which have helped UWG reach this important milestone.
While continuing to remember the strong support of past community leaders Bill Williams, Scott Wilson, Bobby Welch, Winston Dowdell and Inez Slaton, UWG is very grateful for the vision, hard work and persistence of Tom Moat and the Newnan Hospital, Inc., Board, Newnan Mayor Keith Brady, the Newnan City Council, Cleatus Phillips, Hasco Craver, Theron Gay, the Coweta County Commissioners and the UWG-Newnan Advisory Board. The assistance of consultants from Cooper-Carry Architects and Jones Lang LaSalle, and the support of Piedmont Newnan Hospital CEO Michael Bass and the Piedmont team have also been vital to this endeavor.
Dr. Jon Anderson deserves special praise as he has led the project for UWG for approximately two years, and Brendan Bowen has been the point person for the facilities side. UWG recognizes the contributions of past faculty and staff including President Maurice Townsend, Steve McCutcheon, Tim Hynes, Don Wagner, Carol Goodson, Scott Stallings and Rob Tornow, and commends the efforts of present staff members Jim Sutherland, Michael Horvath, Melanie Clay, Kathryn Grams and Cathy Wright.
UWG further acknowledges the contributions of Dr. Steve Barker, Superintendent of Coweta County Schools, and Mr. Mark Whitlock, who have initiated and continue to work toward a larger role for UWG in dual enrollment in Coweta County.
Above all, UWG thanks its students–past, present and future–for making the efforts and investments of all parties worthwhile.
“We’re just proud to have been a small part of this project,” said Tom Moat, Chair 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.”