By Collin Brooks
East Tennessee State University’s campus is about to get quite a makeover as the university will have over $158.2 million of constructions and renovations take place over the next five years.
ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland presented brief slides to the ETSU Board of Trustees meeting at the end of March and he said that the next few years on the campus will be unlike any other time period.
“Within a compressed time period of five years, there will be more investment in capitol than any other measurable period in the history of the institution,” said Noland during a press conference after the meeting.
The most talked about building that will be constructed by ETSU is the Martin Center for the Arts. The project has had over 500 private donations pour in and those, along with other funding sources, will pay for the $52.3 million dollar project that is set to be completed in 2019. The 1,200 seat facility will provide a home for ETSU arts programs and will include teaching and performance spaces. It will be the first new building on campus since Sherrod Library opened in 1999.
The project is halfway through the design phase, according to ETSU Acting Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Ross and the design team is currently reviewing details with faculty and staff to refine the details. Hopes are they will break ground for the facility in November.
With so many local dollars invested, and Johnson City investing close to $9.5 million with site preparation promises, financial donations and land gifts, according to Ross, and Washington County contributed $1 million, each entity will be able to use the facility when it is not in use. It will be a regional project, according to Ross.
“That building to me, represents a regional project,” he said. “There are over 500 private donations, the city has invested significant dollars along with the county and the economic development council. And the dream for everyone is to certainly serve students, education, and performance spaces, but also provide opportunities for the region and that’s been a dream for 20 or 30 years.”
The DP Culp Center will also get a significant facelift, which will help improve the student focus on campus for one of the most well traveled buildings by students.
“(The building) is part of that student experience and the building needed to be renovated and is out of date in many areas,” Ross said. “It will be a $45 million project and will include enhanced dining, a book store, as well as areas for student organizations to gather and work.”
When completed, the footprint for the building will stretch close to 250,000 square feet and will have a wide array of things from dining to student resources, along with social spaces and gaming centers.
They are through the schematic design process and are 15-20 percent through the design. During the inaugural ETSU Board of Trustees meeting, Noland mentioned cafeteria services could be moved to the Millennium Centre during the interim renovations on the top floor and Ross backed up that possible move.
“We’ve had a preliminary meeting on phasing and that is the challenge,” Ross said. “Students who live here and dine on campus rely on their food programs. How we phase construction for the building has not been determined. Because it correlates to the budget, it’s more expensive to have multiple phases in construction and to maintain pathways, but we will have to do that.
“Right now, I believe we will leave the third floor operative, which includes the main dining hall, while we work on the first two floors. And we will have the ballroom where we could place offices for a period of time and may have to place other services and offices throughout campus or on some of our other properties for a period of time.”
They are hoping to set a start date in the coming weeks, but that will also depend on how the project will be phased. Ross said some of the smaller spaces could be tackled as early as this summer, but he’ll have a better idea after the meetings over the next two weeks.
Renovations to Lamb Hall are awaiting details on Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s 2017-2018 budget — which has $21.8 million outlined for the renovation of the university’s home for the health science program. It is also designated as the number one project on the Tennessee Board of Regent’s 2017 capital list. The university was approved for the planning funds in 2016 and in the coming months will begin the selection of the designer.
However, the university will be asking the TBR to decrease their matching funds to 10 percent of the project, instead of the currently mandated 25 percent. UT-Martin was approved for a similar cut recently.
“We will ask to do that 25 percent. We will meet that goal on the Fine Arts Building, but it can be very, very challenging for a renovation,” Ross said. “So we think it is justified and believe the state will probably review matches and adjust them accordingly.”
The building is aging and there has been growth in the public health program which also requires more modern classrooms. The renovation will address those issues and more.
“We’re the flagship university in the academic health sciences in the Tennessee Board of Regent’s system right now, and as we separate we want to maintain that position in the state. Modern classrooms and more space for more students are the goal.”
The next most expensive project for the university is the one that is nearest completion. A $22 million, 8,000-seat football stadium that is set to be completed before the football team’s home opener on Sept. 2 against Limestone. The stadium was funded through private donations and student fees.
The Inter-Professional Education Center, which is located adjacent to the Stanton-Gerber Hall on the VA Campus, is under a major renovation that will provide state of the art simulation laboratories, research space, classrooms, conference rooms, student study space, food service space and administrative offices. Those renovations will cost $13 million and are expected to be completed by the spring of 2018. The final project is a new $2.7 million Data Center that is also being constructed.