In less than two years, Columbus State University and its private donors have transformed the corner of 12th Street and Broadway with a massive construction and renovation effort.
At 1:30 p.m. Friday, that downtown redevelopment project will be celebrated with the formal dedication of Frank D. Brown Hall in preparation for education and nursing classes to begin Monday.
The $27 million project, funded entirely by private donations, changed the former Ledger-Enquirer site into a state-of-the-art home for the School of Nursing and many of the university’s education programs.
Retired CSU President Frank Brown toured the building that will bear his name Thursday afternoon. Fittingly, in Brown’s two-decade tenure as president that ended in 2008, Columbus State established and grew its downtown RiverPark campus.
“Fantastic,” was the word Brown used after seeing the finished product.
“It is truly a mix of coordinated beauty and functionality,” Brown said. “I was blown away by the health sciences portion. You have hospital-like situation rooms that will offer the best of classroom instruction.”
Brown Hall consists of two buildings, one new and one about 75 years old, that are attached. A new three-story structure that fronts Broadway was built after the six-story tower that was part of the Ledger-Enquirer complex was razed. The historic, two-story Mediterranean-style Ledger-Enquirer building at the corner of 12th Street and Front Avenue was restored and incorporated into the CSU plans.
“This building dedication will be a real celebration of the partnerships that define Columbus State University,” said President Chris Markwood. “From the city, to our donors, our foundation trustees, and to our CSU family, it takes a team for something like this to succeed. I am also thrilled to be honoring Dr. Brown, who deserves so much credit for creating the foundation for many of our successes.”
The new facility is expected to house about 1,800 faculty, staff and students, according to the university. That is a sharp increase from the about 100 employees who were on the site when the Ledger-Enquirer moved two blocks down Broadway to the Hardaway Building in January 2015.
According to a CSU study, here is the expected impact starting Monday:
▪ There will be 94 faculty and staff moving to the new downtown facility.
▪ On Mondays and Wednesdays before 5 p.m., there will be 800 students in the facility.
▪ On Mondays and Wednesdays after 5 p.m., there will be 160 students in the facility.
▪ On Tuesdays and Thursday before 5 p.m., there will be 800 students.
▪ On Tuesdays and Thursday after 5 p.m., there will be 220 students.
▪ On Fridays before 5 p.m., there will be 120 students.
Thursday afternoon, workers were moving furniture and getting everything in place for the opening.
Jeffrey Conklin, coordinator for the university’s special education program, has been at CSU for 16 years, all of that time spent on the main campus. The four-mile relocation offers big changes for Conklin and his colleagues.
The move, which has taken place since the Fall semester ended less than a month ago, has offered challenges.
“It was difficult, because you get used to things, but I’ll tell you I am excited,” he said. “I like the new building, being downtown. There is energy here that I didn’t feel before.”
Conklin said he liked the main campus and was dreading the move, but the past week has put those fears to rest.
“I liked being on the main campus and being around the students,” Conklin said. “I liked all the buildings and things, because it felt like a real campus. But this is a new opportunity. ... We were in an older building on campus and maybe you could find it, maybe you couldn’t. Now look where we are, and people will come here and they will see it.”
Janet Alexander, director of the university’s nursing school since August, welcomes the move to the new building. There are about 500 students in the graduate and undergraduate nursing programs.
“We are going to have better facilities for our students and more classrooms for our students,” Alexander said. “The additional space will allow us to admit more students.”
The new building also offers easier access for faculty and students to the downtown restaurants, Conklin said.
“That was one of the first things we talked about,” Conklin said. “We said, ‘We can go down to Cannon, we can go out for Thai food. On main campus, we could walk to Subway or Chick-fil-A. Those were our choices.”
What: Opening ceremony for Frank D. Brown Hall, the new headquarters for Columbus State University’s College of Education and Health Professions. The building is named after the former CSU president who retired after two decades in the position in 2008, when he was the longest-serving president in the University System of Georgia.
When: Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Where: The Ledger-Enquirer’s former property at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway, now part of CSU’s RiverPark campus in downtown Columbus.