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Exclusive renderings: Georgia State University’s impressive vision for downtown

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Should masterplan materialize, expect new green space in abundance and student center that looks like something out of Star Trek

Aerial view of proposed interventions at the core campus.
Expect plenty of new greenery if the masterplan pans out.
Renderings: Cooper Robertson

For years, Georgia State University has been a powerful economic engine propelling development in downtown and beyond.

The school’s partnership with developer Carter is currently changing the face of Summerhill and other neighborhoods surrounding the former Turner Field.

Near the core of GSU’s main campus downtown, a 26-story student housing tower has risen, and the historic Hurt Building recently underwent a $4 million renovation that brought the early 20th century high-rise to modern standards.

But a more widespread evolution, which could grow the university’s urban footprint and bring abundant new green space downtown, could be on the horizon.

On Tuesday, architecture and design firm Cooper Robertson unveiled renderings depicting a new masterplan for GSU that aims to accommodate the fast-growing student population.

The school could boast a 60,000-strong student body—spread out among its six metro campuses—within the next decade, topping the University of Georgia’s roughly 38,000-student population, which has traditionally been the state’s largest.

A bird’s-eye view of the longterm vision for GSU’s downtown campus.

“Key elements of Cooper Robertson’s work include planning for more students living on campus in Atlanta, as well as creating a unified identity for the entire Georgia State University system,” according to Alex Abarbanel-Grossman, a spokesman for Cooper Robertson.

Projects in the pipeline include the impending demolition of Kell Hall, an aging classroom building that will make way for new green space; the renovation of Library Plaza (expect more greenery there, too); and the expansion of the student center, which could make the complex look like something out of Star Trek.

A rendering of the space-age student center imagined by Cooper Robertson.

Exactly how tentative—or not—the plans depicted in the renderings are isn’t yet clear.

“The images represent a wide range of projects,” said Mike Aziz, Cooper Robertson’s director of urban design and campus planning. “They include a collection of broad-ranging ideas that don’t discriminate between near-term ‘low-hanging fruit’ and the longer-term, more ambitious interventions.”

Kell Hall’s replacement, for instance, was “identified as a priority project for the university, and a new student center is currently in a masterplanning of its own,” according to Aziz.

Also on deck, per the renderings, is a spruced-up Hurt Park, as well as a reimagined sports arena and Urban Life Building.

Vision for a drastically different Hurt Park.
The reimagined Hurt Park, as seen from Gilmer Street.

But GSU’s downtown environs aren’t the only school campuses that could eventually see substantial redesigns.

The school’s Perimeter Colleges in Newton County, Alpharetta, Dunwoody, Clarkston, and Decatur are slated to receive expansions of their own, although those plans are still very much in infancy.

“We visited and studied all the satellite campuses, and at a conceptual level we designed future expansions at those campuses, although at the moment there are no plans for significant new development,” Aziz said. “Part of the plan for the Perimeter Colleges is to build on the larger GSU visual brand and identity, creating a consistent entry signage and wayfinding look that ties these campuses architecturally to the main downtown Atlanta campus.”

Currently, all of these ambitions are merely recommendations without financial details, and officials say the updated masterplan report with specific plans is anticipated to be released later this spring.

This article was updated on April 12, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. to include the following statement from Cooper Robertson Partner John Kirk:

The release of renderings of a potential campus master plan for Georgia State University was premature and described a plan that has not been reviewed, discussed, or approved by the university administration. Cooper Robertson takes responsibility for releasing the draft without the university’s permission. It also warrants noting that the renderings are preliminary, highly conceptual initial ideas and do not necessarily represent the direction the university may ultimately take with the master plan.

The sports arena, Urban Life Building, and Decatur Street envisioned.
Streetscape and facade improvements drafted for Hurt Plaza.