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ABAC Plans for $21.4 Million Project to Include Fine Arts Building, Carlton Renovation

July 17, 2017

A $21.4 million project that will create a fine arts building and completely rehabilitate and repurpose the Carlton Library into a more comprehensive learning center is now on the drawing board at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

ABAC President David Bridges said the project is a top priority for the academic year ahead as the college prepares for the return of students for the fall semester on Aug. 16.

“We have needed a fine arts building on this campus for a long time,” Bridges, who began his 12th year as the ABAC President on July 1, said. “Our music program is second to none, and those students deserve a first-rate facility.

“The Carlton renovation will allow us to take advantage of a large space which is presently under-utilized. Moving the campus store operation to Carlton opens all kinds of possibilities. Student engagement is the name of the game.”

Director of Capital Planning Melvin Merrill said the 24,000-square foot fine arts building will be on the front of the campus and will perfectly complement the Health Sciences Building located at the north end of ABAC Circle.

“The building will have practice space for a 100-plus member orchestra and space for an 80-plus member vocal group,” Merrill said. “There will also be individual practice rooms which are acoustically controlled.”

The building will also include a piano laboratory, offices, a classroom, and an area set aside for art students. Music students will have easy access to nearby Howard Auditorium, the concert venue for the choral program, the jazz band, and the concert band.

The rehabilitated 61,000-square foot Carlton Library will be the home for the library, financial aid, student media services, the registrar, counseling, the Veterans Center, the Academic Assistance Center, the student newspaper, the television studio, the campus radio station, and other offices.

Bridges said the legislature has approved $1.6 million in design funds for the project. He hopes the remainder of the funding will be approved during the upcoming legislative session.

“When we completed the front campus renovation in 2013, we knew there was one more piece to the puzzle,” Bridges said. “The fine arts building will fit perfectly as that missing piece. As far as the Carlton Library portion of the project, I believe that building will become the hub for student learning on this campus.”

Merrill said a design professional will be selected for the project on Sept. 8. He hopes construction can begin during the fall of 2018 with an optimistic completion date of August, 2019.

“I would love for students to enjoy the completed project when classes begin for the fall semester of 2019 but that’s probably going to push us,” Merrill said. “Opening the buildings in January of 2020 is a more realistic scenario.”
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