TIFTON - A proposal approved by the state Board of Regents Wednesday will make Abraham Baldwin College the home of the largest residence hall construction project at a two-year college in the United States, administrators said.

Under the plan, the non-profit ABAC Foundation will use funds from bonds issued by the Tift County Development Authority to build two three-story residence halls at the western end of the campus, near the current Chandler Hall. The foundation will lease the grounds from the board of regents for 25 years and deed ownership of the complex over to the regents after that.

ABAC President Mike Vollmer described the project as "crazy," "ambitious," and "huge."

"This is the second-largest project in Tift County's history at $32 million," said Vollmer. "It's also the largest privatized project ever undertaken at a two-year college campus and the largest housing project under construction at two-year colleges nationally.

"When you look at colleges the size of ABAC, nothing like this has ever occurred."

The complex will house 845 students in four-bedroom, two-bath apartments with full kitchens and living room areas. Each student will have his or her own bedroom with telephone, cable and high-speed Internet access.

A centrally located clubhouse will feature an exercise room, computer lab, meeting room and management offices. The clubhouse will be linked to the pedestrian mall already under construction through the center of the ABAC campus.

"We know it's going to attract students, because it's what students want," said ABAC Director of Student Services Tom Call. A pavilion and recreational facilities such as barbecue grills will dot the complex grounds.

Vollmer said the foundation could break ground on the project before the end of June and complete the apartments within 14 months. Plans are to begin construction on vacant land near Chandler Hall and then move the students living in Chandler Hall into new apartments as soon as possible. Once Chandler Hall is vacated, the building will be demolished to make room for the rest of the complex.

The other old dorms - Fulwood, Mitchell and Branch halls - will be torn down and the site landscaped, Vollmer said.

"Over a 10 to 15-year period, we expect the campus will be growing that way," he said.

The foundation plans to charge about $345 per month for a 12-month lease, although the exact figure hasn't been determined.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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