Horry Georgetown Technical College's Area Commission recently approved a $38.3 million upgrade for its Conway campus coming over the next five years and beyond.
Tuesday night the Area Commission approved a new master plan, which will add three buildings totaling 120,000-square-feet of academic space by 2024, one of which will replace five older academic "pod" buildings near U.S. 501, which total around 35,000-square-feet combined.
The plan also takes into account the college's acquisition of the Horry County Fire Rescue station and Victory Lane, a road connecting the station to U.S. 501.
Horry County is in the process of constructing a replacement station on nearby S.C. 544, and once that station is finished the college will be able to purchase the properties. The purchase is expected to be complete sometime next year.
When the college finalizes the purchase of the station and road in 2018, college staff expects to close off Victory Lane due to the danger of an open road running through the campus.
HGTC director of capital improvement Neil McCoy explained to the commission that existing and expected funds collected through the penny sales tax should cover the entirety of the projects.
McCoy also explained that the sizes of the buildings were determined by how much parking the college will need. Also, he showed in diagrams that the parking lots that will be closed for the new academic buildings will be replaced with similar-size lots.
"Part of this has to do with safety," said HGTC President Marilyn Fore. "Closing off Victory Lane and allowing us to have an inner campus is going to allow greater safety."
The changes will also help make the college more efficient.
"As we grow, and we will, and as we add programs we are going to add buildings," Fore said. "Some of these buildings, like the 'pod' buildings, in their day were fine. When they were built we were 2,000 or 3,000 students, and now when you're at 7,000 to 8,000 a small building doesn't allow for flexibility."
The five 'pod' buildings were built to be used as a training center for the hospitality industry, but are used now for academic programs.
Since 2011, enrollment at technical colleges in South Carolina has dropped, but Fore said that eventually that trend will reverse. When it does, the college wants to be ready.
"We don't think we're going to be like this forever, and we need buildings that cater to different types of learning environments than we had in the past," she said. "Different kinds of learning environments and different student and support services are a big part of a college's ability to help students be successful."
The first project that will be started will be renovations on the fire station. The station and Victory Lane will cost the college $350,000, and renovations set to start in 2019 will cost an additional $500,000.
The building will be used for storage and maintenance support.
In 2020 an existing maintenance shed building near the traffic circle on University Boulevard will be demolished and either replaced with a new, 5,000-square-foot campus support facility or an enhancement to the college entrance. That project is slated to cost $1.5 million.
The three academic buildings will comprise the lion's share of the construction projects.
The five "pod" buildings will be demolished and replaced by a single three-story, 60,000-square-foot academic building. That building is expected to be completed by 2022 and will cost $18 million.
Two more academic buildings totaling 60,000-square-feet will be added in the 12-acre overflow parking lot. That project should be finished by 2024 and will cost an additional $18 million.
The added space on the Conway campus will allow the college to continue adding academic programs and keep abreast of technological advances.
"We're trying to look as far as we can into the future on programming," Fore said. "We're going to need to go more into robotics and we're going to need to go more into different engineering programs because those are growing fields.
"We're optimistic that we'll pick up growth, and with that growth we're going to need more up-to-date buildings, which will be better to serve the learning environment," she added.