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UNCG's millennial campus plan takes big step forward

UNCG's millennial campus plan takes big step forward

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Update, noon Friday: The full UNC Board of Governors approved UNCG's millennial campus proposal at its meeting in Chapel Hill on Friday. 

Here's the story that ran at greensboro.com on Thursday night and in the News & Record on Friday: 

GREENSBORO — UNCG is on the verge of getting permission to create a pair of millennial campus districts for health and the arts.

The university’s proposal sailed through a UNC Board of Governors committee Thursday with only a little discussion and no negative votes. The full board that oversees the UNC system is expected to approve the plan today.

“It’s a good thing for us,” Chancellor Frank Gilliam said after the committee’s vote. “I believe like we have momentum as a campus. This is part of that.”

State law lets a public university designate a part of its campus as a millennial campus. That status exempts that portion of campus from state law that generally prohibits UNC schools and other public agencies from competing with the private sector.

On a millennial campus, professors and students can work with the private sector on an array of projects that are intended to boost a university’s teaching, research and community service missions and drive economic development in the region. The designation also lets private companies lease or build on university property within the millennial campus area.

UNCG will split its millennial campus into two parts that play to two of its academic strengths.

The proposed Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan District will stretch along Gate City Boulevard on the south side of campus. It will include UNCG’s new student recreation and wellness center and its Spartan Village dorm and retail complex. It also will take in the new nursing building, which is scheduled to open in 2020 near the center of campus, and the Sullivan Science Building.

The proposed Visual & Performing Arts District will run generally along Tate Street from the Music Building on West Market Street to the Weatherspoon Art Museum on Spring Garden Street. This district also will include the UNCG Auditorium and several nearby theater school facilities.

UNCG’s millennial campus will cover about 73 acres, or roughly a third of its campus.

UNCG hasn’t announced any specific plans for these two new districts. Gilliam said university officials are talking to developers and other business people about possible projects.

In an interview Thursday, Gilliam hinted at some possibilities for UNCG’s millennial campus. Maybe, he said, the university could develop an incubator for start-up businesses that emerge from university research. Maybe Tate Street could be home to a black-box theater that would host UNCG student actors and musicians as well as other performers. Maybe something could be built on the parking lot behind the Weatherspoon Arts Museum. Maybe area hospitals or community health organizations would want to work with UNCG professors in UNCG buildings.

“This is an opportunity to expand our academic program,” Gilliam said. “The most precious commodity on any college campus is space. There are a lot of academic programs that could use more space.”

Before Thursday’s vote, Harry Smith, a Greenville businessman and the chairman of the budget committee reviewing UNCG’s plan, had a couple of questions.

Was UNCG getting any pushback from the neighbors?

Gilliam said the university has been in regular contact with the College Hill and Glenwood neighborhoods about its millennial campus plans.

And did N.C. A&T have any objections?

Nope, said Harold Martin, chancellor of A&T, which sits just 2 miles east of UNCG.

The committee’s vote was unanimous. Board member Marty Kotis of Summerfield abstained because he owns property on Tate Street near UNCG’s planned arts district.

Since 2000, when the Legislature wrote millennial campuses into law, the UNC system has created eight. (UNCG’s will be the ninth.) One of the first, the 1,000-acre Centennial Campus at N.C. State, is perhaps the best known.

UNCG’s millennial campus will be the second in Greensboro. The Gateway University Research Park — jointly operated by A&T and UNCG — was established in 2003. The park’s South Campus is home to the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, which opened in 2011.

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

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