GSU - The Complexity of Main Street

Monday, September 10th 2012

from www.gsusignal.com by Andres Cruz-Wellmann

Fifteen years ago, Georgia State set out to expand its campus to accommodate its growing enrollment numbers and need of modern teaching facilities. The Main Street Master Plan was developed to change not just Georgia State’s campus, but also downtown Atlanta.

“Most of the campus master plan is to provide a general framework for physical growth of the campus,” Ramesh Vakamudi, assistant vice president of Facilities Acquisition and Operations, said. “They are not going into specific details, such as building designs, which itself is a very involved process which can take a few years.”

Vakamudi explained that the Master Plan works as a “living document” that changes every time certain needs arise.

Master Plans normally have a five to 10 year horizon. Once that time span nears its end, the administration updates it according to its needs and feedback from students.

The original 1997 version of the plan was intended to accommodate the growing enrollment numbers and provide adequate research space for students.

All of the concepts that were envisioned in the original plan are either in the process or have been implemented.

Such concepts include the Student Recreation Center, Helen M. Aderhold Learning Center, North Metro Center, University Lofts, Andrew Young School Of Policy Studies and the University Library Transformation.

In 2005, Georgia State began to prepare an update of the Master Plan. While the original plan expanded the campus to provide sufficient teaching space, the updated plan would provide students on-campus housing, administrative office space and student social space.

As a part of the updated Master Plan, Georgia State now wants to house 20 percent of its students.

“Where we are now, we are about 32,000 students,” Vakamudi said. “If we want to house 20 percent we need 6,400 beds. We currently have about 4,000 beds on campus.”

Currently Georgia State has about 32,000 students and 4,000 beds--8 percent less beds than its goal requires.

Despite lacking 2,400 beds, Georgia State still wishes to attain its goal of housing 20 percent of students and having around 40,000 students by 2020. Georgia State would need to provide a total of 8,000 beds.

Vakamudi said that another housing development, like University Commons, would be close to impossible. Instead, Georgia State hopes to build or acquire smaller buidings to house smaller groups of students.

“We will probably do these projects in chunks of 300 to 500 beds every few years,” Vakamudi said.

Georgia State has a current graduate student housing prototype project in the planning and design phase.

“It’s going to be a very small housing project,” Vakamudi said. “37 beds for graduate students.”

The housing project will be located next to the Petite Science Center. It will address the need for graduate students conducting experiments who constantly need to be on campus.

“We want to see if it can work, if the students like it or not, get their feedback on it,” Vakamudi said. “It’s very hard to imagine it unless you actually live in these things. If they like it we will proceed to a bigger project.”

The difficulty that arises with Georgia State’s location is just that: its location.

“Most of these buildings that we acquire aren’t used for general purpose classrooms because the elevators are not designed for that kind of traffic, or the restrooms,” Vakamudi said.

While Georgia State is now looking for more housing and general-purpose classroom buildings, the majority of buildings in downtown Atlanta are office buildings. These spaces are practically unusable for dorms or classrooms.

One plan is to move offices from the top of General Classroom Building and use those spaces for classrooms. Office spaces, like the Humanities Department, can be moved to office buildings, like SunTrust.

Other office spaces will be available in Dalhberg Hall once President Becker and the Provost offices are moved into the Atlanta Life Building, according to Vakamudi.

Building its own facilities would provide spaces that better address student needs, but the cost of building the facilities and finding and purchasing the land becomes more than the cost of purchasing an already existing building.

Georgia State is currently in the concept phase of their latest Master Plan. They are anticipating the release of their new concept art and maps later this year.