The newest campus construction updates as the spring semester ends

Before some current Georgia State students graduate, the home and heart of campus, across the entirety of Library Plaza and beyond, could be replaced with bulldozers, cranes and the lovely sound of construction.The newest campus construction updates as the spring semester ends

As a reward for their patience, Georgia State’s urban space will be replaced with more green than students have ever seen before on campus, transforming the brick of the plaza into grass.

This is the goal of the 2013 Master Plan – the long-term overhaul and redesign to Georgia State’s Atlanta campus. Slated to renovate Library Plaza, demolish Kell Hall and rebuild the entrance to Library North, students can expect a myriad of construction and development in the semesters to come – possibly even returning in the fall to the main campus entirely under development.

But where are all of these projects currently, and when can we see results and how much it will cost?


Library Plaza

The Master Plan outlines Georgia State’s aspirations to introduce a greenway at the center of campus, in part of what they call the core district: Library Plaza. The only problem with this is that it will result in the complete demolition of what many students would call the prime study and hangout spot on campus.

Last fall semester, Ramesh Vakamudi, vice president for Facilities Management, said that demolition could begin in February or March 2019. But as of now, the plaza remains untouched.

So, what happened? According to Vakamudi, “[The] project got delayed as we have to get Board or Regents approval for budget modification.”

This budget modification was the result of the estimated cost of the project doubling from $5 million to $10 million. The first estimate was provided by Georgia State Facilities Management while the second estimated was developed by a design consultant based on detailed drawings and several factors.

“Factors [included] the increase in construction cost from when the project was originally priced, the increase in the scope of the work which originally included a smaller portion of the plaza being demolished, the addition of a monumental stair from the remaining plaza to the new greenway and enhanced landscaping for the greenway which was originally planned as a later phase,” Vakamudi said.

The final approved budget is $9,950,000.

The project has been divided into two phases. Phase One includes the work on creating a greenway to replace the entire plaza. Then, in Phase Two, a new entrance would be developed to access Library North from the greenway. 


Library North

In March, the university interviewed four finalists for the firm that will design the additions to Library North

Dean of Libraries Jeff Steely said that these additions will serve two purposes. The first is the obvious need for an entrance to the Library from the newly renovated plaza and green space. The second is what he calls the true priority, based on student needs, the creation of more space for students to occupy and study.

“The likely approach will be an extension on the north (greenway) side of Library North that includes stairs and an elevator. We hope this small expansion will also provide a little programmatic space,” Steely said. “The architects had some interesting ideas in [recent] interviews.”

The university was granted $5 million dollars by the Georgia Legislature in the 2018 session for Phase Two, but Steely isn’t sure just how much this will fund.

“The university has received direction from the Board of Regents staff that the project scope needs to be limited to the [$5 million] allocation,” Steely said. “In today’s market, that will not go very far.”

He said because of the restrictions placed on the project, the development of space will have to be in a separate phrase, rather than a part of the same phase while building the entrance.

“What we are able to achieve in this phase will be ironed out as the university works with the architects on design of the space,” Steely said. “Obviously, at a minimum, it has to provide access to the library. Beyond that, I hope for an attractive entrance that lays the groundwork for future projects. Any usable space we can gain would be a bonus.”

As for the timeline on these developments, Steely said the plans for the entrance are due by July from the firms and that design work will begin right away, but all dates are subject to change. No definite date for construction has been decided yet, as this is contingent on the availability of funding.

During Phase One, Steely said, students will be able to access the library through a strip of Library Plaza – from Langdale Plaza to the exterior elevator, next to Courtland Street. As for Phase Two, no plan for access has been made, but it should be included once a design has been finalized, he noted.


Kell Hall

Just like Library North is a crucial element in the bigger plan for complete renovation of Library Plaza, another building has a special role: Kell Hall and it’s much-anticipated demolition.

The Signal first reported on Kell Hall’s piece of the project in October 2017, when the University System of Georgia Board of Regents granted approval for the demolition of Kell Hall, spurring a four-phase plan for demolition, which would begin in December 2018.

But as students started spring semester, Kell Hall remained. The Signal reported, in January, that there were still several missing links to move the project forward: an environmental effects report, the approval of Governor Brian Kemp and a historical survey.

Ramesh Vakamudi, vice president for Facilities Management, has an update for all three roadblocks. The environmental effects report was submitted to the Environmental Protection Division and was approved; Gov. Kemp gave his stamp of approval March 5; and the historical survey was sent to the State Historic Preservation Office. 

The final mitigation report will be completed by August, 2019, but the demolition of Kell Hall is not contingent on or held up by the approval of this final report.

During this, unsuitable soil, containing buried construction debris and other contaminants, was encountered when trenching for the relocation of a chilled water line was taking place. The soil was tested, hauled from the sit and replaced with fresh, clean dirt.

According to Vakamudi, the process of cleaning out Kell Hall and asbestos abatement are still ongoing and will be complete by mid-May 2019. The current tentative start date for the demolition of Kell Hall is May 20 – a process Vakamudi said could take two to three months to complete.

Editor’s Note: Craig Schultz II contributed to this story.