Lee University will begin construction Monday on its newest addition to the campus. The new building, which will house Lee’s Communication Arts Department, will be built on the extreme southwestern corner of campus and will see use by the start of Lee’s fall semester in August of 2014.
“It’s exciting finally to be starting on this project,” said Lee President Dr. Paul Conn. “It’s going to connect our campus directly to the downtown business district in a beautiful and dynamic way.”
The building will face Church Street, lying between Ocoee and Church Streets, along Central Avenue to the south, on property formerly owned by First Baptist Church and earlier was a commercial strip including a JCPenney store and other retail businesses. Corn Apartments also formerly occupied a portion of this property
"The ‘front door’ of this building will be on the Church Street side,” continued Dr. Conn. “Most of the pedestrian traffic will move in and out from Church Street, so the primary entrances and a terrace is on that side. On the other hand, we want this building to look terrific from Ocoee Street, so there really is no “back” of this building. It’s designed with a 360-degree view, and there will also be an entrance on the corner of Ocoee and Central Avenue, facing toward the courthouse.”
The total project is slated to cost $10 million, including the site, construction and equipment. The building will cover 40,000 square feet on two floors.
The structure will feature a state-of-the-art “black box” theatre seating 200 for stage productions; a television studio and sound stage; a 120-seat film screening theatre; eight video editing suites; a student journalism lab; 22 faculty offices; classrooms of various sizes; and a computer lab.
The new building will also host a new facet to Lee’s growing food services options, with a food kiosk by Sandella’s Flatbread Café, a Connecticut-based operator of restaurants which features flatbreads, wraps, and sandwiches.
All of Lee’s recent buildings have included food venues: Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Chick-Fil-A, Einstein Bagels, and Jazzman’s Coffee all operate within Lee’s academic buildings.
Department of Communication Arts is one of Lee’s fastest-growing departments. Last year it served 369 students pursuing B.A. and B.S degrees in communication studies, public relations, theatre, and digital media, while offering minors in advertising, communication studies, journalism, public relations, telecommunications and theatre.
“Some of the most remarkable and creative work at Lee is being done in the Communications Department,” said Dr. Conn. “It’s time for us to give them a space of their own, with top-notch equipment and facilities. I believe this is one of the brightest areas at Lee moving into the future.”
Cole Strong, director of special projects in Lee’s president’s office, is the administrator supervising the construction and outfitting of the building.
“We are excited to get underway,” said Mr. Strong. “Now we need some dry weather so we can get the footers in the ground and start building the super structure. It’s going to be an exciting next couple of months.”
The project will be completed by Tri-Con, Inc., a design-build firm which has built numerous other downtown buildings (the Museum Center at Five Points, the Police Headquarters, and the Cleveland-Bradley County Public Library), as well as most of the Lee campus. Tri-Con has engaged the firm of Rardin and Carroll Architects as the lead consulting architects for the project.
Lee has also contracted with Acoustic Dimensions, Inc., a Dallas, Texas, company which specializes in theatrical and telecommunications venues, to supervise the outfitting of the building.