Facilities vice president forecasts Georgia State’s future projects

SGA met on Oct. 21st to discuss construction projects on campus. Photo Submitted by J.P. Irie

At Wednesday’s Georgia State Budget Committee meeting, Facilities Management Vice President Ramesh Vakamudi gave updates on the university’s construction projects.

Progress on Georgia State’s several construction projects has not dwindled, and Vakamudi expects a couple of projects to be done next year.

“We’ve been busy since March,” Vakamudi said. “We’ve [been] working non-stop since April. We’ve not stopped since then.”

Social Distancing on the Campus

Their most immediate project introduced social distancing to the campus.

“The biggest task we were faced with at the time,” Vakamudi said, “was [modifying] 600 labs with social distancing layouts and installing social distancing markers, and that’s across all six campuses.”

The goal was to keep students six feet apart wherever possible, a task that Provost of Academic Affairs Wendy Hensel mentioned would drastically cut classroom capacity.

“We collaborated with [the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning] and all the colleges because there are several classrooms … with different layouts.”

The Greenway and Library Addition

The next task was the long-awaited Greenway, taking place where Kell Hall once stood.

Vakamudi showed pictures of what will replace Kell Hall and what construction teams have been working on for the past year: a new green space in the city, a new entrance to Library North and a new hangout spot for students downtown.

A concrete trail with trees lined on each side already cuts through the site of the greenway. Meanwhile, the Library North addition site is less photogenic — a large patch of dirt where metal trusses and a slab of concrete lay.

“We’ve completed the northern portion of the campus greenway project,” Vakamudi said. “As soon as we complete the Library North project … we’ll go back and complete the south phase of the … greenway.”

Georgia State delegated the construction of the Greenway and the addition to Library North to Pond & Co., a local construction company that specializes in industrial and infrastructural projects. 

Senior Director of the Facilities Design and Construction Services Kimberly Bauer predicted Pond & Co. would finish the plaza in March. Associate Vice President for Public Relations and Marketing Andrea Jones expected the plaza to open in May. However, Vakamudi set the new expected completion date for March or April of 2021.

Dental Hygiene Addition to Dunwoody

Vakamudi said the Board of Regents approved a new addition to the NC building of the Dunwoody campus: a dental hygiene teaching lab. He estimated the project would cost $6.3 million. The board will contribute over $4 million.

This came after the Board, in their Oct. 13 meeting, established a Bachelors of Science in Dental Hygiene at Georgia State.

However, regents in the meeting noted that renovations or building additions weren’t necessary.


Hurt Park

Hurt Park’s renovation has not slowed, but it has changed.

While the City of Atlanta owns Hurt Park, the city has entrusted the operation and maintenance to Georgia State.

Before the renovation, Hurt Park was known for its dispersed litter, broken fountain and homeless people.

Georgia State received the city council’s approval to repair and refurbish the park. The university promptly put up a chain link fence during construction.

In the photographs Vakamudi showed, the construction crews displaced much of the park’s grass turf, leaving the dirt underneath bare.

Simultaneously, homeless people who once frequented the park could not even sleep on its sidewalk without being dispelled by patrolling police.

Many Atlantans who were concerned for the homeless, protested on Twitter and Instagram. A few nonprofits such as Love Beyond Walls, an organization prioritizing homeless hygiene, have also spoken out.

Love Beyond Walls specifically highlighted “the growth of ‘hostile architecture” in a Facebook post on Sept. 8. A practice that removes unwanted groups of people from an area by discouraging the use of the space by putting up fences or blocking the sidewalks and seating areas.

Even Atlanta’s urban design commission disagreed with implementing a fence in the final design, believing it would disperse the homeless further throughout the city.

Vakamudi noted that many homeless people have moved towards the Walgreens near Georgia State and Woodruff Park.

The controversy surrounding the park occurred in September. Now it’s October, and Georgia State is changing some of its plans for the park in response.

Vakamudi disclosed that there would be no fence in the final design of the park.

“[There’s] also a HOPE Team [and] they … assist [the homeless] … but … as all of us on this call knows, this is an ongoing problem,” Vakamudi said.

Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement, or HOPE, is a nonprofit organization in Atlanta dedicated to resolving homelessness.

Convocation Center

Georgia State will begin construction on its Convocation Center in mid-November. It’s a “large, multi-purpose, $85 million project,” Vakamudi said. 

The 131,000 square foot center would hold graduations, commencement ceremonies, conferences, concerts, esports and basketball.

“It’s scheduled for opening in 2022,” Vakamudi said.

Smaller Projects

Vakamudi also discussed smaller improvements to buildings throughout the six campuses:

  • Refurbishment of the restrooms in the CH building of the Clarkston Campus 
  • Replacement of the wooden handrails in Langdale Hall on the Atlanta campus with stainless steel rails. The old handrails “were not [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant” and “did not have correct mounting heights,” Vakamudi said.
  • Replacement of the 20-year-old Science Annex roof on the Atlanta campus.

Though Georgia State has been experiencing budget cuts, Facilities Management at Georgia State continues to push forward with its projects.