Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lee University Announces Major Building Project

Lee University has announced the details of its newest construction project, a laboratory and classroom building for science and math. The building site at the corner of Billy Graham Avenue and Ocoee Street has been undergoing foundation work since earlier this month.

Lee president Dr. Paul Conn said the new facility will provide 73,000 square feet of space for academic programs, with a total project cost of $14 million. The building will include two wings with a central "commons" space connecting the two. The larger of the two wings, which will include all science labs for the university, is being built first. After its completion, the current Beach Building, which now houses Lee's Department of Natural Sciences, will be razed to make room for the second wing of new construction. The Beach Building is a 22,000 sq ft structure built in 1966.

The preliminary schedule calls for the first wing to be occupied in time for the fall 2009 semester. "We are thrilled to be finally beginning this wonderful project," Conn said. "It will triple our academic space for science and math, and give us all-new facilities for this important academic area. It will also provide a beautiful new structure on the northwest boundary of our campus, and I believe our neighbors in the downtown community are going to be thrilled with the way the project upgrades and beautifies our Ocoee Street frontage. "

The general contractor for the project is Tri-Con, Inc., with Cope and Associates, a Knoxville-based design firm, serving as architects. The building was designed in consultation with a faculty committee chaired by Dr. Matthew Melton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Cole Strong of the university staff is general liaison to the project.

Thirteen classrooms of various sizes, ten laboratories, and two computer labs will create total "seat-space" for 640 students, plus a 150-seat lecture hall. The central "commons" area will feature a massive student lounge of five thousand square feet, plus reading rooms. The building will provide thirty faculty offices. The labs will serve 200 students in chemistry, organic chemistry, molecular cell biology, microbiology, dissection, general biology, and physical science.

The new science/math building is the "capstone project" of the university's "Press Toward the Mark" capital funds campaign, Conn said. The campaign began in 2005 with a goal of raising $25 million for various campus needs. Conn said the fund-raising for the science building itself was launched in late 2006 at the university's "Celebration 2006" festivities. "We are having a wonderful response to this effort to upgrade our science and math programs," Conn said. "Cleveland and Bradley County leaders in business and industry are supporting it very generously, as well as many out-of-town donors."

As construction begins on the science building, a different major "Press Toward the Mark" project is nearing completion on the other end of campus. A $5 million-dollar classroom-and-office building for the Lee University School of Religion is under construction at the corner of Parker and 8th Streets, and is scheduled for occupancy in the fall semester.