Construction Projects Underway on 2 UNG Campuses

In Local Area News

Buildings on University of North Georgia’s (UNG) Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses are coming down, going up and under renovation this fall.

One highly anticipated project is the new North Georgia Astronomical Observatory on the Dahlonega Campus. In January, the University System of Georgia (USG) approved UNG’s plan to demolish the old structure and replace it with a state-of-the-art facility in the same spot on top of a hill about 4 miles from campus.

“The old one had outgrown its functionality,” said Ken Crowe, assistant vice president of facilities.

After UNG received a demo permit in October, large-scale machinery tore down the existing building in early November. Workers then conducted site work. They are set to pour a foundation and raise the building steel skeleton in December.

“The iconic observatory domes are scheduled to arrive and be installed in early January 2020,” said Adam Strzemienski, assistant director of facilities for capital planning and sustainability. 

He said the project is progressing quickly to beat the winter weather.

“As long as we don’t experience more unseasonable weather, we will remain on schedule,” he said. “Right now, we hope to be finished by summer 2020.”

The observatory is one of two projects for the Department of Physics & Astronomy. The second is design work on a Gainesville Campus Observatory. Dr. John Leyba, interim dean of the College of Science & Mathematics, explained the college supplied funds for the design of the new facility after an astronomy faculty member was hired for the Gainesville Campus.

“We decided that it would be very beneficial and convenient for that faculty member and Gainesville students to have and use an observatory on campus,” Leyba said. “In addition, we wanted a place where a larger telescope could be permanently mounted.”

Ted Forringer, assistant department head of physics & astronomy, said this is the first step in a lengthy process. The tentative plan is to locate the observatory near the pond.

“It’s a relatively dark part of campus,” said Forringer, associate professor of physics. “The facility will be a good match for the size of telescope that we have.”

Near that same site, the biology department’s new greenhouse is being erected. Dr. Tom Diggs, associate professor of plant biology at UNG, said it will be used for research and education, as well as propagation of rare and native plants.

“It will be much larger and more useful than the old structure, and we will have experimental gardens and raised beds outside,” he said.

Bill Moody, director of facilities and operations for the Cumming, Gainesville and Oconee campuses, said the project should be complete by mid-December.

Another project in progress on the Gainesville Campus is the renovation of the Student Health Services building. Moody said the project is ahead of schedule and is set to open in January 2020.

As that project ends, crews will start demolition on the Gainesville Campus expansion project, which is estimated to last 90 days. In the meantime, Moody said his department and Jackson EMC are installing underground electrical wiring and laying new gas lines.

“Currently, we have overhead power lines on campus,” Moody said. “If a tree limb falls and hits a line, it cuts off power. If it is underground, it is more safe and reliable.”

A final construction project underway in Gainesville is a 600-square-foot expansion of the Public Safety building. Moody said the building will have two new offices and a conference/training room.

“I’m hoping the project will be finished in December,” he said.

UNG Police also received news in November about its new building on the Dahlonega Campus. Crowe said the USG Board of Regents approved the project in two phases at its Nov. 5 meeting. Phase I was for the BOR to purchase the property from the UNG Real Estate Foundation. Phase II was to authorize the renovation of the former Steak ‘n Shake.

Crowe explained the UNG Real Estate Foundation originally purchased the property in August with the intent to sell it to the university. Now, UNG will use $2.5 million of internal funds to turn the former restaurant into an appropriate public safety building.

Positioned in the fastest-growing region of the state, UNG comprises five campuses united by a single mission focused on academic excellence and academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. UNG is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and, as one of only six senior military colleges in the nation, is The Military College of Georgia. With more than 20,000 students, UNG offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from certificate and associate degrees to professional doctoral programs.

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