Southern Union State Community College in Opelika will be seeing some significant changes in the upcoming weeks.
Starting Jan. 28, the college will begin the first of a three-phase $32 million construction project on campus, which will include a new parking lot, construction of two classroom buildings and the creation of a pedestrian area.
“We’re very excited to get underway and we look forward to adding an element of our campus that will hopefully bring pride to the city of Opelika and will be able to draw visitors,” said Shondae Brown, spokesperson for SUSCC. “We think, overall, that it’s going to be a good thing.”
Brown said one aspect of the project is the increasing amount of students who are enrolling year after year.
“We are built to capacity as far as student population,” Brown said. “Part of the reason for the long-range plan is that we want to improve our facilities and offer the best that we can for our students.”
Brown said the first phase of the project will be the construction of 764 new parking spaces, which will be spread throughout the lower part of the campus. In addition, two new entrances will be created at West Point Parkway and Lake Condy Road in an effort to increase traffic flow.
“We really wanted to address the parking issue because that’s the number one complaint that we get from our students,” Brown said, adding that the first phase would increase parking by 60 percent.
The second phase of the project includes the construction of two new buildings. The Center for Integrated Manufacturing will cover 70,000 square feet and be built to house classes like drafting, machine shop, welding, heating and air, electronics, robotics and auto mechanics programs. The Business and Technology Center, which covers 45,000 square feet, will be built on the same location as the Health Sciences Simulation Lab, which will move to another location.
“The buildings will be the latest in technology, so our students will be able to learn in some of the nicest facilities around,” Brown said. “We just want the best for our students and to be able to give them a leg up when they go out into their respective fields or to a four-year university system.”
The final phase of the project will be a large pedestrian area that will tie the new buildings and parking lot together. Brown said the conversion to more foot traffic on campus is a step toward becoming more like a collegiate institution.
“This is just laying the groundwork for a more pedestrian-friendly campus and easier access to the buildings from the parking area,” Brown said.
The project is estimated to last two years.
“There will obviously be some inconveniences during the course of this project, use of portable classrooms and traffic issues being two that come to mind, but we feel the overall benefits will far outweigh the negatives when this project is completed. Our students will have the some of the nicest facilities in the state and the campus will be very inviting – a place of which the community can be proud,” said SUSCC President Amelia Pearson in a written statement.