published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Technical college passes milestone in Catoosa County campus plans

This architect's rendering shows how Georgia Northwestern Technical College's new Catoosa County campus will look when it opens in 2015. Construction will begin this spring.
This architect's rendering shows how Georgia Northwestern Technical College's new Catoosa County campus will look when it opens in 2015. Construction will begin this spring.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Planned site of Georgia Northwestern Technical College campus in Catoosa County.
    Illustration by Laura McNutt.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College's plans for a Catoosa County campus passed a milestone Monday.

The technical college took ownership of about 38 acres on Old Alabama Highway near Interstate 75 that it purchased for $1.145 million from the Catoosa County Economic Development Authority.

Construction could start in early June, college President Pete McDonald said, on the Catoosa campus that's been in the planning stage for about 15 years.

One of its main programs will be "mechatronics," or a combination of mechanics, electronics and computer-controlled processes. The training would serve someone working in a range of Northwest Georgia industry, McDonald said, including flooring, auto supply or appliance making.

"It's not designed for any specific industry," he said. "The education that we will be providing is pretty generic."

The campus will be built on 50 acres just north of Holcomb Road that the Catoosa County Economic Development Authority bought in 2008 for about $2 million with revenue from the special purpose local option sales tax, a 1 cent levy per $1 of sales.

Developer Shannon Brown of Chattanooga-based JSB Holdings proposes restaurants and retail for the remaining 12 acres fronting State Route 151, as Old Alabama Highway officially is called. The economic authority said last spring it planned to sell the land to Brown for about $50,000 an acre, or $600,000.

Brown, who didn't return calls seeking comment Monday, has built at least half a dozen Zaxby's restaurants in the area, including one near the Wal-Mart at the foot of Signal Mountain.

County officials initially planned to develop the 50 acres as an industrial park, but that idea lost steam as the failing economy created a surplus of industrial space along I-75. The technical college was in the market for land, since it scrapped plans to build a Catoosa County campus on 37 acres at Cloud Springs and Dietz roads because of traffic and flooding worries.

The college is a good fit for the site, said Randall Peters, chairman of the economic authority.

"We're all looking forward to it. We think it'll be good for the county and the workforce," Peters said.

Pieper O'Brien Herr Architects in Alpharetta, Ga., has designed the campus' main 65,000-square-foot building. The new school should be open in time for classes in the fall of 2015, officials said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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