After five long years of development it’s looking like N.C. Central University’s new student center may open Spring 2022, barring any further delays. The student center was initially planned to open in 2021.
“It’s going to be a really nice and modern space. Students will be able to come in and enjoy a variety of new amenities,” said Walter Lennon, NCCU project manager. Lennon has worked on the project for about two and a half years and at NCCU for about eight years.
The 100,000 square foot building, located at the corner of Fayetteville Street and between Nelson and Cecil Streets, will replace the 53-year-old Alfonso Elder Student Union which will be repurposed.
The new center will provide space for activities, events and recreation. It will have a large multi-use gathering space that seats up to 1,000 people for conferences, banquets, and other events. It will also provide office space for student union operations and student organizations. Public computer stations will also be available.
Its auditorium will seat 1,750 students and include catering for events. Other food services will include a Chick-Fil-A, Freshens, and more, said Lennon.
Programs housed in the as-yet unnamed center will include the Department of Diversity and Inclusion, the LGBTA Center, the Women’s and Men’s centers, a gaming center, the Student Senate Chamber, Career Services.
The current student union, with its 39,000 square feet, was named after Alphonso Elder, NCCU’s second president. Built in 1968, it was designed to serve about 2,500 students. Today’s enrollment is over 8,000. Its last major renovation was in 1992.
Commissioning of the current project began in late 2016. Funding for it, along with the new School of Business, was paid for by student debt service fees, which was supported by $30 million from the Connect NC Bond, and an additional $8.6 million from the N.C. State Legislature. The center is designed by O’brien Atkins, Duda – Paine Architects, and the MHTN Architects Team.
The new center has overrun its initial $36 million budget by $11 million. Raising its total cost to $47.3 million, as of 2017. Lennon explained that new programs were added to the preliminary designs and that large buildings typically have unexpected cost overruns.
As of June 2021 the project is 89 percent complete and expected to be done by December 31, 2021. Once complete the opening will be determined by the administration according to Lennon.
Ondin Mihalcescu, director of Capital Projects Management at NCCU, said he is excited about the new building and is confident that students will enjoy the new amenities.
The new center is just one component of NCCU’s Master Plan, which includes other projects such as the Public–Private Partnership (or P3 Project) that will bring three new residential halls — Chidley South and two others which will be located on George Street and Lawson Street.