Newswise — COLUMBUS, GA -- After garnering approval from Columbus’ Board of Historical and Architectural Review and Facade Board, Columbus State University is finalizing plans to move its College of Education and Health Professions to downtown Columbus, a move that will further expand the university’s popular RiverPark campus with an extra 1,800 students, faculty and staff.

Entirely with private donations, the university’s real estate foundation, Foundation Properties, Inc., purchased the home of the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper just before Christmas. Barnes, Gibson & Patel Architects and Brasfield & Gorrie contractors are now finalizing demolition, construction and renovation plans at the corner of Broadway and West 12th Street.

“We are very excited with how this project is progressing,” said Tom Hackett, interim president of Columbus State University and a professor of education. “I think our plans for the former Ledger-Enquirer building will mirror other projects we have done in Uptown. We’re taking great care to preserve the historic nature of the complex, while also adapting the building to our needs in a way that will complement the special look and feel of that area.”

The project is estimated to cost about $25 million and will be a significant part of the university’s ongoing “First Choice” comprehensive campaign, which is still being finalized. Currently the university has secured about $18.5 million dollars toward the project.

Former TSYS CEO Phil Tomlinson has agreed to lead the university’s campaign, and finalizing the full funding for the new downtown building is among his chief concerns. “I’m so excited to see this addition coming to downtown Columbus,” he said. “We still have some work to do raise enough money to really make this a first-class complex. We expect to do that soon, while we are also finalizing our campaign plans so we can make an announcement soon about our progress and our overall goals for this campaign.”

Moving the College of Education and Health Professions downtown will bring about 1,800 additional faculty, staff and students to downtown Columbus –called Uptown by locals – on a daily basis. Many of those students take classes in the evening. The move will add to the almost 900 faculty, staff and students already downtown in the College of the Arts and the Department of History and Geography. (Many of those students live in the 450 beds the university also has downtown.)

The university hopes to occupy the new building by fall of 2016. It will house most of the departments of the university’s College of Education and Health Professions, including its School of Nursing.

Currently, Jordan Hall and Illges Hall house the departments that are moving downtown. Their current homes are about 70,000 square feet. When completed, the new complex downtown will be about 90,000 square feet and include amenities not currently available on main campus, such as a tiered 150-seat classroom, state-of-the-art simulation labs for nursing, and group-learning spaces, and up-to-date technology. The project will mean a significant decrease in overall square footage of the current Ledger-Enquirer building, which now has almost 164,000 square feet.

“This move will give us classrooms and laboratories equipped with the latest technology, and – with the student experience in mind – will allow faculty in all programs to engage students in a variety of educational experiences that promote learning,” said Deirdre Greer, interim dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. “The impact of moving to this first-choice facility will be evident in the college’s emergence as a nationally acclaimed authority on innovation in education and health care. We would like education to be a physical and figurative centerpiece of Columbus.”

New construction on the complex should significantly enhance the 2-acre lot on which the buildings sit. The current multi-story tower at the corner of Broadway and West 12th Street will be demolished to make way for a three-story building that is much more in line with the building scape downtown. The design of the new building will be influenced by the character of the 1930 historic Ledger-Enquirer building and will offer a sense of balance between the new and the traditional architecture. The exterior will be clad in brick with cast stone accents. A two-story glass-enclosed lobby will connect the two sections of the complex and serve as the main entrance for the college. The new complex will have significantly more greenspace than what is there now. Outdoor seating and other ornamental hardscape is also planned to accentuate the new home for the College of Education and Health Professions.The new building adds to Columbus State University’s extensive downtown footprint, which now totals about 1 million square feet and includes a bookstore, convenience store, visiting professor apartments, student housing, continuing education space, performance facilities, classrooms and a dining center.

The university has been credited with spurring much of the revitalization of downtown Columbus, which is now home to the world’s longest urban whitewater course, a zip line across the river into Alabama, and a host of unique eateries, coffee shops and night spots.

“Uptown Columbus is excited about the announcement that CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions will be moving to the Uptown location at 12th and Broadway, the current home of the Ledger-Enquirer,” said Richard Bishop, president and CEO of Uptown Columbus, Inc. and the Business Improvement District. “This location will be a great home for over 1,800 students and faculty, and will jump start the redevelopment of the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Broadway.”