'We're gearing up for growth'
New parking deck opens at Georgia Gwinnett College

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia Gwinnett College President Daniel Kaufman said he thinks one of the campus' newest structures is fairly attractive - for a parking deck.

The five-story, 737-car parking garage on Collins Hill Road has a brick exterior and a brick and reflective glass elevator tower emblazoned with the school's "G" logo.

But more importantly, Kaufman said, the facility is emblematic because it represents the growth he expects the campus to see in the coming years.

"We're gearing up for growth," Kaufman said. "We have to, because people are finding out about our innovative academic programs, they're hearing the buzz about our state-of-the-art facilities, and they are expressing more and more interest in being inspired by the amazing academic minds we've gathered on this campus."

Georgia Gwinnett College, the 35th institution in the University System of Georgia, opened in 2006 with 119 students. Nearly 1,000 students now attend the college, and 3,000 are projected to attend this fall. By 2015, officials expect 15,000 students to be enrolled at the school.

The college opened in Lawrenceville on the site of the former Gwinnett University Center, which had three buildings. The GGC Foundation has purchased two additional buildings - the former Plumbing Distributors Inc. headquarters, which is now the Student Services Center, and Fitness International, which will reopen in a couple of weeks for student use. The Foundation also entered into a lease-back agreement with Valentine Enterprises, located next door to the new parking garage.

In the coming months, the college will break ground on several projects, including the Library and Learning Center, a student center and - pending approval by the Board of Regents - a residence hall, Kaufman said.

Maurice Blount, the director of facilities, said the parking deck is an important part of the college's master plan.

"The deck needed to be in place so we could supply enough parking spaces for students who are here and those who are coming," he said. "The master plan calls for parking on the perimeter of campus, while the central part will be pedestrian-friendly greenspace. Eventually, new construction in the center of campus will eliminate some of our current surface parking."

Billy Johnson, the president of GGC's Student Government Association, thanked college officials for their foresight. He said in his meetings with other SGA presidents, he has learned the No. 1 complaint of college students in Georgia is insufficient parking.

"When we opened the D Building (the Student Services Center), I said it housed services for the students of today," Johnson said. "This parking deck houses the services for the students of tomorrow."