Cruz Plaza to begin construction

Development on the upcoming Cruz Plaza is scheduled to start Dec. 3 or 4, according to Dr. James Netherton, Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance at Mercer University.
Cruz Plaza, named after the Mercer trustee and donor who put forth the lead gift for the project, is the future name of what will be a revitalized area surrounding Porter Patch.
According to Netherton, trustee Milton L. Cruz put forth the gift after remarking to President Underwood that the road running from Greek Row in front of the UC, Stetson and Tarver needed to fit the aesthetics of the rest of Mercer’s campus.
Netherton called the plan “an idea to transform the center of campus.”
“It’s big, it’s expensive, it’s complicated and it’s going to be wonderful when we’ve finished,” Netherton said.
The center of Mercer’s campus used to be the historic Quad, but as the campus has grown, the center has shifted to Porter Patch and the area between the UC and Tarver Library. The road that runs alongside these buildings, Edgewood Avenue, is a major thoroughfare for university foot traffic throughout the day, but it was not part of the original campus plan.
“Mercer’s been on this location for a long time,” Netherton said. “We’re a lot larger than we used to be, and we’ve got old city roads going through the campus. The most unattractive part of our campus is Edgewood Avenue.”
Mercer approached Atlanta landscaping firm HGOR to undertake the project of reshaping Edgewood Avenue and the sidewalks running from outside Shorter Hall to Connell Student Center.
However, the original plan that the firm proposed would have involved construction taking place over a period of three to four years.
Instead, the administration opted for a plan that would take less than a year, beginning in December and concluding just before classes resume in August.
Netherton said that one of the first steps of the project will be to rip up Edgewood Avenue and replace all the utilities running beneath the street. Because this renovation will interfere with students trying to get to class, Netherton said that the administration expects to maintain crossing points for students down by the College Street intersection, by Tarver, near the bronze bear statue and close to Greek village.
“The ideas have continued to mature.”
Netherton said that he hopes that those who become frustrated by impediments caused by construction will react with “a little bit of patience and a little bit of understanding. This is going to inconvenience students, but it’s going to be good for their future.”
The final plan for the plaza includes water features for students to enjoy, new walkways, picnic tables and a “programmable” green space where Porter Patch is now. Netherton said that the space will provide an attractive location for outdoor concerts, pickup games of Frisbee or other sports and, potentially, an outdoor graduation ceremony.
Netherton also said that the plaza will accommodate handicap requirements for students with wheelchairs or other special needs.
“Part of what we’re trying to create is more inviting, informal places for students to gather,” Netherton said.
He added, “It’s also sort of neat that everyone will be able to see the transformation. That’s a place where students do so much. With the new design, they’ll be able to do so much more.”
A groundbreaking ceremony for the construction on the new plaza will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 12.