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Greensboro's colleges and universities have big hopes for new buildings

Greensboro's colleges and universities have big hopes for new buildings

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GREENSBORO — The city’s three public institutions of higher learning are constructing major new buildings that will educate students for jobs of today — and tomorrow.

GTCC this fall is opening its Center for Advanced Manufacturing next to its main campus in Jamestown. UNCG has broken ground on a facility that will be a new home for its nursing school and provide badly needed science labs. And N.C. A&T is about to start work on a new engineering building devoted to research and innovation.

Here’s a closer look at these three important projects:

GTCC

In Jamestown, GTCC is putting the finishing touches on its Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

The center — a former bus warehouse about a half a mile from the college’s main campus — is the new home for three of GTCC’s bread-and-butter programs. The college’s transportation and computer integrated machining programs moved into the renovated facility in August. The welding program will follow later this fall.

All three programs will end up with more space and new equipment. That means they’ll be able to educate more students — and that GTCC will be able to produce more graduates ready to take in-demand and higher-paying jobs, college President Randy Parker said.

“It gives us more capacity so we can serve additional students and do more industry training,” Parker said. “Plus it will all be state-of-the-art equipment.”

GTCC has spent about $33.5 million to buy and convert the former warehouse into its advanced manufacturing center. Plus there’s room to grow. The center occupies a little less than two-thirds of the building. And the 37-acre site has room for more buildings one day.

A tunnel that runs underneath Guilford College Road connects the property to GTCC’s main campus. This connector is scheduled to open in early 2019.

Parker said local business leaders are excited about GTCC’s new space. Not only will the center produce more skilled and badly-needed mechanics, welders and machine operators, it also has room to train employees of local companies. That in turn will help economic officials recruit new industries, Parker said.

“Manufacturing is pretty hot right now,” Parker said. “The economy is strong, and (companies) can’t find workers. …

“There’s a need for more trained workers,” he added. “Very much so.”

UNCG

For years, UNCG has had the twin problems of “too many” and “too few.”

Too many students have wanted to enroll in its School of Nursing, but UNCG has had too few spaces available to take them all. Too many students have wanted to major in science and health-related fields, but UNCG has had too few science labs to accommodate growing demand.

A building now under construction should help with both of these problems.

The Nursing and Instructional Building is going up atop the site of the now-demolished McIver Building. About half of the five-story L-shaped building will go to the nursing school, which will get new simulation labs, faculty offices and classrooms. The other half will be biology and chemistry labs and classrooms for nursing students and students in a variety of different science programs.

A floor-to-roof atrium will connect the two halves of the building. UNCG officials believe this space will become a busy on-campus gathering area.

The bond issue approved by North Carolina voters in 2016 will pay for this $105 million facility. In a recent interview, UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam said the project remains on budget and on schedule to open in fall 2020.

Gilliam said the new building will accommodate some of the recent growth at UNCG, where enrollment is expected to top 20,000 students this fall.

“It’s a great thing to add faculty and students,” he said. “But pretty soon you have to add classrooms and offices.”

By adding more science labs, Gilliam said, UNCG can graduate more scientists and more people able to work in burgeoning science and health businesses. By expanding its nursing school, he added, UNCG can graduate more nurses for the fast-growing medical and hospital fields.

“We can’t graduate nurses fast enough to meet the demand,” Gilliam said.

N.C. A&T

N.C. A&T produces more African-American engineers than any other college in the country. But the university thought it needed to do more — more research, more innovation — to keep the program on the cutting edge.

A&T is about to start construction on one of its boldest projects yet. The 130,000-square-foot building, scheduled to open in 2021, will be the new home of its College of Engineering. The glass, steel and brick structure will replace a former YMCA on East Market Street and give A&T a modern — and impressive — front door to the campus.

The $90 million project will be paid for by the same 2016 statewide bond issue that helped UNCG get its new nursing building.

A&T leaders are most excited about the prospect of the new building, which is reflected in its name: the Engineering Research and Innovation Complex, or ERIC.

The building will be organized around three cross-disciplinary themes: cybersecurity and network systems; energy and sustainability; and health care applications — what engineering dean Robin Coger called the engineering school’s “research thrust areas.”

Coger said the building is designed to bring together professors and students from many different engineering disciplines. This collaboration, this cross-pollination of ideas, she added, should bring about new approaches and innovation and help A&T students and faculty solve current engineering problems and anticipate future issues.

“We’re doing it in a way to move the field forward,” Coger said. “In order to do that, it can’t be done in isolation.”

Most of the four-story building will be taken up by research labs and faculty offices. There will be a cafe on the first floor and lounges and meeting spaces on the upper floors to encourage more casual and spontaneous gatherings. The building will have three large engineering classrooms as well as a makerspace for students to build and develop their own ideas.

“The goal for ERIC is to really make sure our students are getting the state-of-the-art facility and research labs and classrooms and experiences,” Coger said. “It’s about our competitiveness. It’s about our keeping up with the advances and what’s impactful for their field.”

Contact John Newsom at 336-373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.

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