Several dozen Columbus State University faculty, staff, students and supporters gathered on a blustery but brilliant Friday afternoon to mark another meaningful moment for the institution’s newest expansion project in the city’s downtown.
It’s called a “topping out” ceremony, when the last beam is placed atop a structure during its construction. In this case, two beams were set aside for guests to sign and be part of the historic connection within CSU’s new College of Education and Health Professions, now 11 months away from its scheduled opening on the former Ledger-Enquirer property at 12th Street and Broadway.
The beams will be part of the glass walkway that will link the new, three-story structure with the remaining 1930s, Mediterranean-style building.
Deirdre Greer, the college’s dean, put in perspective what the $25 million project will produce within its 90,000 square feet. In addition to the state-of-the-art environment, the new facility will consolidate the faculty in one location instead of being scattered across the main campus in midtown, Greer said.
“It’s going to increase our collaboration, our collegiality, our working together to meet the needs of our students,” she said.
Greer then explained why that matters.
“All of our programs prepare our graduates to be an integral part of the life of Columbus or whatever city they go to,” she said. “If you think about when you are looking to move to a new city, you look for good schools, good health care, and that’s where you want to be. That’s what we prepare people to do, and we prepare those people well.”
CSU president Chris Markwood called it “an exciting day” for three reasons.
“It’s exciting for the students who are going to have a world-class facility,” he said. “It’s exciting for the faculty who are going to have the room, the space, the equipment, the technology to train world-class students. And it’s exciting for this community to have this facility downtown and to continue the great partnership and the revitalization of downtown Columbus.”
Oh, and the college’s faculty, staff and students also are excited about having “lots of places to go to lunch” in downtown, Greer added with a smile.
When it opens in January 2017, the new facility is expected to bring an additional 1,800 folks to downtown, according to the university’s news release. More than 450 already use CSU’s RiverPark campus, which contains the College of the Arts in downtown.
Brasfield & Gorrie, headquartered in Birmingham and with an office in Columbus, is the project’s construction contractor. Barnes Gibson Patel Architects LLC of Columbus is the designer.
Ryan Wampler, project manager for Brasfield & Gorrie, told the crowd, which included some of his crew, “Although we were a little nervous about the impact we would have over the course of the construction, I’ve heard nothing but overwhelming compliments about Columbus State University, about the facility, about the design elements, about how you guys have taken this incredibly beautiful building and been able to transform this block in such a way. It’s been very honoring for us to be a part of that.”