Construction Underway on Carlton Renovation Project at ABAC

Staff Report From Tifton CEO

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

With a rhythmic pounding which enveloped the immediate area with a chalky dust, the gigantic jack hammer made short work of the well-worn concrete steps in the middle of the campus at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

A massive front-end loader quickly loaded the debris into a waiting dump truck.  And the rehabilitation of the Carlton Center at ABAC was underway.

“If the weather holds, we should move right along,” ABAC Capital Planning Director Melvin Merrill said.  “The building will look quite different when the renovation is completed.”

The Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the State of Georgia includes $17.7 million in funding for the renovation of the Carlton Center and the construction of a Fine Arts Building on the campus.  ABAC received $1.6 million in design funds for the Fine Arts Building and the Carlton renovation in the FY 18 state budget. 

To complete the $21.4 million project, ABAC President David Bridges is hoping for $2.1 million in funding for equipment for the two buildings in the FY 20 state budget.

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

Merrill said the Fine Arts Building will occupy a space at the south end of ABAC Circle on the front of the campus.  The area has already been fenced, and construction should begin soon.

“We have needed a Fine Arts building on this campus for a long time,” Bridges said. “Our music program is second to none, and those students deserve a first-rate facility.”

Tentative plans for the rehabilitated 61,000-square foot Carlton Center call for it to be the home for student academic support, the bookstore, the mail room, information technology, offices of the Dean of Students, Veterans’ Lounge, archives, the Student Government Association offices, the library, reading and study areas, computer lab, One Button Studio, the Student Engagement Programs Center, symposium/exhibit space, the Academic Success Center, campus media, and student development.

The Carlton Center’s primary purpose since it opened in 1990 has been as the home for the Baldwin Library.   The library is temporarily located in J. Lamar Branch Hall until the Carlton Center reopens in 2020.  The entire Carlton Center was closed during the 2018 fall semester, and all occupants relocated to offices across the campus.

ABAC Project Manager Tim Carpenter said Praxis 3 Architecture from Atlanta is designing the Carlton Center, and JMA Architecture from Perry is designing the Fine Arts Building.  Allstate Construction Group from Perry is the contractor on both projects. Jones, Lang, and LaSalle personnel serve as the project manager.

Bridges said the new Fine Arts Building will be a first-class addition to the other buildings on the traditional “Sweetheart Circle,” which include the Health Sciences Building, Lewis Hall, Tift Hall, and Herring Hall.  The Health Sciences Building opened in 2006, and Lewis, Herring, and Tift were a part of the historic Front of Campus Project, which culminated in 2013 when the three original buildings on campus received a much-needed rehabilitation.

“The Fine Arts 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 projected plan for the first floor of the building includes the band rehearsal room, instrument storage, the band and choral music library, the choral rehearsal room, band and choral storage, music faculty offices, and a keyboard laboratory.

The second floor will feature individual music practice rooms, a recording control room, art faculty offices, painting/general art labs, visual arts material storage, student work storage, a display area, and a computer design lab. Music students will have easy access to nearby Howard Auditorium, the concert venue for the choral program, the jazz band, and the concert band.

Merrill said the rehabilitation of the Carlton Center and the construction of the Fine Arts Building should be completed in time for the 2020 summer term at ABAC.