GSU Business School Plans New Building

May 24,2010

From Atlanta Business Chronicle

Georgia State University is planning its latest big downtown project — a new building for its expanding business school.

The university has hired the international firm Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP, the master planner behind projects for Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. It will work with local architectural firm Rule Joy Trammel + Rubio LLC to design the new GSU building.

The first phase of construction could begin by 2015.

The university is still considering sites, and up to six locations might be in the running, according to people familiar with the plans. The eventual spot is expected to be close to the current home of the J. Mack Robinson College of Business. The college is housed at 35 Broad St., the former Citizens and Southern National Bank Building, a downtown Atlanta landmark.

Atlanta Business Chronicle reported in January that Georgia State had an interest in the 33-story Equitable Building, which was foreclosed upon last year. But the university appears to have backed away.

While the project could involve the purchase and redesign of an existing downtown building, a build-to-suit project is far more likely, according to people familiar with the plans.

“We have hired a firm to program for a new facility,” Robinson College Dean H. Fenwick Huss said in an e-mail. “The process just determines our needs, is not site specific and does not commit us to anything.”

GSU officials declined to elaborate.

The need for more downtown classrooms is driving the project.

During the past 10 years, GSU business school enrollment has increased by 2,000 and now stands at 7,626, according to the university. That growth has propelled the school to the sixth-largest in the country, according to AACSB International, an accrediting body for business schools.

Competition between U.S. business schools is also intense.

GSU battles heavyweights nationally and goes head-to-head in its own backyard against The University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Emory University. UGA, for one, continues to increase its intown presence at its Buckhead campus, which enrolls students studying for master’s degrees in business administration.

GSU, meanwhile, offers business classes in Buckhead, along with other sites in Brookhaven, Alpharetta and near Perimeter Mall. GSU may see a new building with the latest technology giving its recruitment an upper hand.

“The competition is not as much for students as it is for stature,” said Beth Day, vice president with the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education.

During the past two decades, Georgia State developed into a major player in downtown Atlanta real estate.

Former President Carl Patton pledged to make the school an integral part of downtown. That goal led to a $1 billion master plan and 14 new or renovated university buildings — so far.

In 2007, the Georgia State University Foundation purchased the SunTrust building; a two-block area that includes the 26-story office tower at 25 Park Place; a three-story bank building; a six-story annex building; a four-story vacant building and an eight-story parking deck.

The cost of the new business school project is unclear.

Some estimates say construction expense alone would run at least $160 a square foot. Based on that estimate, construction costs on a five-story building would approach about $20 million.

The project will unfold in phases and mark a significant expansion of the school’s campus, according to people familiar with the plans.

When that first phase begins will depend on funding. Some of that money will have to come from the cash-strapped state Board of Regents.

The state legislature approved a $184 million capital budget for fiscal 2011 that includes $20.6 million in design funds for seven projects, including Georgia State University.

Much of the additional funding will come from private donations, sources said.

The business school has numerous notable graduates. In 2006, Parker H. “Pete” Petit, an influential player in Georgia’s biosciences sector, gave Georgia State University $5 million for a new science lab.

The project eventually bore his name.