Downtown Center welcome ceremony
Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan and Brenau University President Ed Schrader shake hands next to an artist's rendering of the front of the new Brenau Downtown Center.

Brenau University Moves into ‘Downtown Center’

Dec 17, 2012
Brenau Staff

Launching a new era in both its academic progress and its 135-year-old relationship with its hometown, Brenau University has officially moved into to its newest location in Gainesville. The city-owned Georgia Mountains Center now becomes Brenau Downtown Center, which will be the home of expanded graduate degree programs in physical therapy and other health sciences.

At an unofficial “move-in day” ceremony, Brenau President Ed Schrader and Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan heralded the “great new partnership” between the university and the city as Brenau takes over the facility in the first step of its $6.5 million health care program expansion.

“Our mission, our job is to give opportunities when opportunities do not exist, to find chances for people to advance their skills, their learning, their appreciation to the world and perhaps – hopefully – their ability to make a working and gainful wage for themselves and their families. Part of finding that mission and that opportunity to create changed lives is the Brenau Downtown Center.”

The convention, trade show and events venue for more than three decades has been losing money for the city and Brenau, which has filled up its small historic campus in Gainesville, needed some space nearby to launch a doctorate in physical therapy and other health professions programs. The 10-year lease, which is renewable for up to 50 years, takes red ink off the city government’s books while giving Brenau room to grow.

Listen to Dr. Schrader and
Mayor Dunagan’s remarks.

Schrader said renovations and construction to turn the what has been a 2,500-seat arena into classrooms and meeting space was scheduled to begin in mid-January 2013. Although the arena will no longer be available, the theater, meeting/ballrooms and other public use areas will still be accessible to community members and groups like the Georgia Mountain Players.

Mayor Dunagan agreed that the relationship Brenau is cultivating with the city will be a long-lasting one.

“As Dr. Schrader said we are going to walk shoulder-to-shoulder – we are not going to separate – because this is a win-win situation for all – especially for this community and its citizens,” Dunagan said.

The move-in ceremony also celebrated the transition from “city employees” to “Brenau employees” for 11 full time and part time Mountains Center staff members.

The event drew close to 60 people – city elected officials and administrators, business leaders and Brenau staff, including about a dozen members of the Board of Trustees who live in the Gainesville area.

“My heart does flip-flops when I see the sign,” said trustee Betty Norton, who is also a Brenau alumna,  as she stood before some artist’s rendering of what new signage at the center could look like with the Brenau name and logo emblazoned on one of the most visible building facades in the city. “I can’t wait to see what this brings for my alma mater and my community.”