published Friday, February 18th, 2011

Growth spurs Dalton State to unveil new master plan

ABOUT THE MASTER PLAN

* Campus expansion and development designed to serve a student body of 8,000 for the next 10-12 years.

* A pedestrian pathway running along a central spine from the Roberts Library on the south end of the campus to the James E. Brown Center at the north.

* A 61,000-square-foot academic building.

* Expansion of the gym, library and student center.

* 2,000 additional beds for residential living, up from 256.

* Expanded space for parking, with some current parking areas converted to green space for active and passive recreation.

Source: Sasaki Associates

DALTON, Ga. — The vision for Dalton State College is to become the school of choice to get a bachelor's degree, a place where students can have a true college experience, and a new master plan unveiled Thursday is the first step to accomplishing that goal.

"We expect that over the next eight or 10 years we'll have 8,000 students," said Dalton State President Dr. John Schwenn during a presentation at the Dalton Freight Depot.

The previous plan -- from about five years ago — envisioned an enrollment of 5,500 students by 2015. The college enrolled 5,988 students last fall.

"While we do not project continued growth such as we have seen the last two years, we must plan for a future that calls for more younger-age students who demand a more traditional college experience," said Schwenn in a news release.

The master plan includes a pedestrian pathway connecting the north to the south of the campus, expanding the student center, adding residential beds and an academic building.

The 61,000-square-foot academic building, with an estimated cost of $18 million, has been approved for construction by the Board of Regents, but lacks funding from the Legislature.

Schween said he hopes funding will become available this year, if not next year at the latest, especially since $1.3 million already has been spent in the design.

One of the goals of the plan, which is scheduled to take about 10 years to be implemented fully, is to enhance student life.

"The transformation of the student life of the campus, like the expansion of the gym and the student center, can make this a really vibrant place for students to be," said Brie Hensold, urban planner with Sasaki Associates, a company from Boston that developed the plan that took almost 10 months to craft.

Kathryn Sellers, a Dalton resident for more than 30 years who attended the community meeting, said it was exciting to see there's a plan to accommodate more students.

"To me it's growing very much," she said. "That's the reason a lot of us have had great interest in trying to get student presence downtown so we can have a more vibrant downtown."

Partnering with the community is needed, Schwenn said.

"We need to partner with people because we don't have the resources to do everything," he told the crowd. "We need the community, and the community needs us; it's a two-way street."

The plan will be implemented in three phases, starting with the academic building, expanding the Pope Student Center, the library and the construction and enhancement of the pedestrian spine.

Next will be projects that include construction of two residential buildings to develop the south housing district and bring on 400 beds and the expansion of the gym. The last phase includes a 1,050-car garage and a Northern residential district with 1,360 beds.

The projects will be paid with different funds, including student fees and private donations, Schwenn said, although he admits the economic downturn will play a role when things get done.

But despite the economy, he believes the time is right to take action.

"I believe you always have to move forward. You can't stop and if you stop and wait a couple years, you miss two years of development, planning, growth, and this way we are headed off the way we need," he said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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