Fences and scaffolding line Central Piedmont Community College’s main quad — and more are on the way as the as the school makes room for a new central facility.
When it is completed in December 2021, the space will feature a student center as well as a library with a theater attached to it that will replace the existing Pease Auditorium. The school will bulldoze Terrell Building, the Hagemeyer Learning Resource Center and Pease Auditorium to make way for the new complex.
Charlotte-based Rodgers Builders Inc. is managing the projects, which total $113.5 million.
Demolition work on the central campus buildings in the Elizabeth neighborhood began in December, and construction will start in July.
The library and student center are among the nine construction projects planned or underway in four of the community college’s six campuses.
The $30.6 million student center, funded by a 2013 bond package, will serve as the campus’ first completely student-oriented building. The 77,572-square-foot space will host student organizations and government along with a food court, common area, event spaces and student services such as financial aid and advising.
As the student body becomes younger, there is more of a need for a central student space, CPCC spokesman Jeff Lowrance said.
“They aren’t necessarily as much of a commuter student as you might think,” he said. “They want to come and spend more time on campus, have time to share with each other, build community, take part in activities, those sorts of things.”
The $82.9 million library complex, funded by the county in 2017, will be 107,863 square feet when it opens, with facilities such as a lab for career exploration, collaborative spaces and archives.
The old library wasn’t built to accommodate modern technology, Dean of Library Services Gloria Kelley said.
“When you start adding technology to a building you realize that you can’t move walls and things of that nature,” Kelley said. “The way students study now, they want collaborative space, they want group study rooms. We were unable to provide them with space.”
In the meantime, the library is being housed in the old Advanced Technology Building at 1241 Charlottetowne Ave. Because of space constraints, students can’t browse the book collection themselves.
Students are used to construction and closures on the central campus. The North Classroom building, which will become the college’s largest facility, is slated to open for classes in January 2020. Officials broke ground on it in November 2017.
And unrelated to the ongoing construction projects, one of the school’s parking decks is closed for maintenance. Daniella Carter, a 22-year-old pre-nursing student, leaves her house in North Charlotte more than two hours before her morning class on Mondays to secure a parking spot on campus.
Carter said the construction and parking changes have made life more difficult on campus. “I don’t like it, but I understand why it needs to be done,” she said.
Lowrance said while there are enough parking spaces to meet student demand, the school is encouraging students to arrive earlier to secure a spot.
As a result of the library and student center project, the school closed Pease Lane, where 20-year-old Alonna Burney used to park.
“I just wish they would build when it’s the summertime or over break, and then chill when we’re supposed to be here,” she said. “They cut off a lot of routes for us to get to and from school.”
The construction for the library and student center building will begin over the summer, but Lowrance said all of the ongoing projects are multi-year.
“It’s gonna require some patience on everyone’s part,” he said. “But we think once these new buildings are built, they’re going to be great places that students will enjoy. They’ll be a vast improvement over what they’re replacing.”
The end of an era
In November, actors took their final bows in Pease Auditorium, which will be demolished and rebuilt as part of the library and theater project.
The venue has been a fixture of the college’s theater department for over 40 years.
During construction, the program will lose its more intimate space, said Tom Hollis, drama instructor and chairman of the Visual and Performing Arts Division.
For now, the department is using the larger Dale F. Halton Theater. That will change the types of performances the program puts on, Hollis said. To fill the more than 1,000 seats, they’ll have to perform bigger plays.
The program could also put on a few smaller shows in the Georgia Tucker Performance Space when it opens at the Levine Campus in Matthews in the spring.
Hollis said the old space had its challenges. A 12-foot-high ceiling made lighting and elaborate sets difficult. The new Pease Auditorium will have a slightly bigger seating capacity, higher ceilings and a larger backstage area.
“It’s a bittersweet time. A lot of people grew up in that space and got their starts, but now they’ll be coming back and making new memories,” he said.