Mercer University students away from campus on summer break will notice a few changes when they return to class next month.
One of the most significant will be a new fountain, a rain garden and walkway now under construction at the campus’ south end. They should be finished by the time classes start and football season kicks off.
The fountain and rain garden grew from a need to drain water from that part of the campus, said Larry Brumley, Mercer’s senior vice president for marketing and communications.
“Basically, it’s replacing a ditch,” Brumley said. “It’s going to filter water runoff in a more environmentally friendly way, while at the same time give students an aesthetically pleasing gathering place, especially during (football and baseball) games.”
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As part of the project, Mercer also is putting in a walkway that will run behind the school’s Claude Smith Baseball Stadium to Anderson Football Field to enhance the tailgating experience.
The walkway will have lights, and more trees are being added to that part of the campus.
“A lot of new trees will be there,” Brumley said. “It’s going to be a beautiful area. It will be really inviting.”
The combined cost of all of the work is under $1 million, and the university is looking to sell naming rights to the fountain area.
“We are looking for a donor to name the place for,” he said. “It will be an attractive naming opportunity. ... It’s all part of an ongoing effort to beautify the campus and encourage more interaction.”
The fountain/walkway isn’t the only construction work going on at or near Mercer.
Phase III of the Mercer Lofts on College Street -- across from Tattnall Square Park -- is nearly complete and will be opened before classes start Aug. 19. Brumley said the additional living space is necessary because Mercer is expected to have another record-setting year in freshman enrollment, topping the 728 freshmen who came to the university last year. That total was 83 more freshmen than the previous year.
The school also has broken ground and started construction on Phase IV of Mercer Lofts in an area down the hill from the post office on College Street.
Near the Phase III lofts, work continues on converting the former Tattnall Square Presbyterian Church into a theater, which should open near the end of 2014.
Mercer also is expanding beyond the College Hill area of Macon.
Brumley said work has finished on the former Georgia Music Hall of Fame building downtown, and that the Mercer Medicine Multi-Specialty Clinic already has opened in that space. A formal dedication ceremony for the building will be held next month.
Even with these projects, Mercer isn’t slowing down. The university’s board of trustees has given the green light for fundraising that would help build a new science building on campus.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.