Valdosta Daily Times

Business

March 18, 2012

The future of Valdosta State University

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University has come a long way in the past 106 years and aims to go even further in the future with the hopes of a new health science building, expansion of North Campus and property purchases contiguous to main campus.

“We’re landlocked, so any time space opens up around campus we’re going to look at it,” said  Dr. Louis Levy, interim VSU president. “Not that we’ll buy and gobble up everything, it’s if it fits in with our plans.”

While no master plan exists, VSU’s future depends on the unknown plans of whomever will be the next university president.

“Remember, please, that I am an interim president and so my guess is the next president will want to embark on a master planning process that will answer many of the questions about where things will be located, where are the obvious places for expansion and repurposing,” said Levy.

While the future expansion of VSU is uncertain, the only certainty appears to be how far the school has come since its establishment in 1906.

 A special act of the Georgia Legislature established an institution of higher learning in 1906 for Valdosta, although no appropriation was made for buildings or maintenance until the summer of 1911, when the state appropriated $30,000 for a building and equipment.

The City of Valdosta first donated 60 acres of land and $50,000 to be used toward establishing the college. The first building, Converse Hall, was erected and furnished at a cost of $55,000. In 1912, the Legislature granted an adequate annual appropriation for maintenance, and the future of the institution was assured. The college, called the South Georgia State Normal College, opened to women on Jan. 2, 1913, and offered two years of college work.

An act of the Legislature in 1922 changed the institution’s name to Georgia State Woman’s College at Valdosta and authorized a four-year program leading to the bachelor’s degree.

The Board of Regents made the school coeducational in 1950 and changed the name to Valdosta State College.

In 1993, Valdosta State College was named a regional university. In fall 1998, Valdosta State University adopted the semester system, along with other units of the University System of Georgia (VSU history adapted from www.valdosta.edu).

With a past that promotes prominent growth, it can only be assumed that VSU will continue its rich history in expansion. It is the hope of Levy and several members of the community that this most recent expansion will be kickstarted by the construction of a new health science building.

“What does the future entail? Well, there are a lot of people with a lot of dreams about the health sciences in particular,” said Levy. “We hope to provide expanded programs in the health sciences and new programs.”

Levy said when it comes to the health science building, it takes some imagination.

“When you look at that plot of land and the surrounding area, what you kind of have to do is close your eyes and imagine what it could be,” said Levy.

The construction of the new health science will not only help bring new programs to VSU such as hospital administration, health-care management and medical informatics but it will also help         to improve health care for the region.

“This is a project that is the community’s project,” said Levy.

The construction of the new health science building is like dropping a rock in a pond and watching the water ripple outwards.

“So all of that will not only require a new building but will require additional parking and possibly down the line, housing,” said Levy. “The future involves more than just an academic building, it involves a clinical space, housing, parking, all of the things you would get in a full-fledged medical center.”

Another addition to North Campus includes the Ashley Cinema property that took 19 months to attain.

“They can totally redevelop it,” said Greg Moore of Mike Hill Real Estate.

North Campus is currently 40 acres and by VSU picking up the theater property, it adds 20 percent of usable land and the facility can hold more than 1,450 people with seating for about 800.

“It was a no brainer as far as growth for the university,” said Moore.

The Ashley Cinema property deal closed in February and was purchased for $2.397 million by the University System Board of Regents.

“That property has probably already been transferred but everything has to be purchased through the Board of Regents,” explained Moore.

While the Ashley Cinema property is being leased back to the occupant until VSU can utilize it, it serves as a step towards the future.

“It does look to the forward progress of business administration and health sciences on north campus,” said Levy.

While the building is not being used by VSU, the parking will be.

“The 270-some odd parking spaces, the only way to get that kind of space without purchasing additional land is to build a deck and that would be even more expensive than the Ashley Cinema purchase,” said Levy. “If you add to it that you get a building in addition to parking, it seemed to be an economical way to provide for the future.”

Though there is nothing set in stone for what the property will become, there are various visions.

“There’s been some talk                 of using it for classrooms,” said Levy. “It could also be used for        continuing education, medical  education facilities and it’s large enough where you could have     professional meetings there.”

The goal was that VSU wanted to acquire space for the future.

“There are very few spaces that are contiguous to our campus,” said Levy.

Levy gave no definite or approximate timeline for the Ashley Cinema property.

“What happens there, it’s like a system. When you decide to change one part ... it affects other land in that region,” said Levy. “So, assuming we can get started and finish the health science building in a reasonable time, say three years, once we populate the building that will put pressure on us for additional parking.”

Levy stated that it just really depends on the dynamics of the master plan.

“I’m not willing for the record at least to make statements about that because I really don’t know,” said Levy.

It was expressed that the goal for North Campus is for it to become a mecca of health sciences.

“I see that whole area as one day becoming health related and including the area of business,” said Levy.

VSU’s main campus has room for growth as well. The Valdosta State University Foundation hopes to sell the Snow House, 107 E. Brookwood Drive, across from Drexel Park.

The Snow House is a historical house and thus cannot be torn down. To acquire the property, the VSU Foundation has sought someone to purchase and move the house to a different location so that it may be rehabbed and restored.

“Several people have cited interest ... but no one has put it in writing,” said Levy.

According to John Crawford, vice president for VSU advancement and chief executive officer of the VSU Foundation, said, “Several organizations have looked at the house and right now the cost of moving the house seems to be the hold up with them taking ownership.”

While he has not priced it, Crawford has been told that the approximate cost to move the house is somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000.

“That’s just to move it not to set it up or anything like that,” said Crawford.

Levy stated that there is no current plan for that property.

“Right now, we hope to use it for parking,” said Levy. “It’s probably the cheapest parking per space that we’ll ever get.”

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