Monday, August 18, 2014

Eastern Florida State College Plans Major Expansion

MELBOURNE, Florida -- If all goes as planned, the Melbourne campus of Eastern Florida State College will undergo a major expansion in the next decade with the construction of six additional buildings to house new programs designed to spur job creation and economic growth. 

The $74.8 million plan was announced Monday to the college’s Board of Trustees by Eastern Florida President Dr. Jim Richey, who called it a “major investment in the future of our students, our community and the entire region.” 

In all, five academic buildings and a new student union are to rise on the campus.  The buildings will serve as homes for many of the college’s 22 new academic programs that offer Bachelor Degrees and Associate Degrees in business, health care and computer information technologies. 

They will also provide space for additional programs in the years to come. “The expanded campus will be a vital center for higher education and workforce development for our community well into the 21st century,” said Richey. 

The Melbourne campus is best suited for expansion for several reasons, Richey said.

• It is home to the college’s largest student population, the place where the most credit hours are taken and the hub for rapidly growing online programs.

• It’s also located in an area with some of the most dynamic economic growth in Brevard County, including the commercial aviation sector at Melbourne International Airport and expanding high-technology and healthcare businesses.

Richey added the college also has master plans for its Titusville, Cocoa and Palm Bay campuses and will continue improving them as well.

Work on the first new building is already well underway: A $14 million Public Safety Institute that is on schedule to open in February. 

The next project would be a new Health Sciences Institute.

The college received $2.4 million in May from the state Legislature to begin site and architectural planning for the institute and will seek the remaining $17.6 million for construction next year.

The college may also eventually build additional classrooms, laboratory space, student advising centers and student housing on 10-acres of college-owned land that is now used by Brevard County for the Wickham Park Pavilion.

The county has operated the land under a 30-year lease with the college that ends in 2018. The college has notified county officials it needs the land for future growth, giving them about four years to consider other possible sites for the pavilion. 

Most of the funding for the expansion would come through appropriations from the state Legislature. 

The college has already received the $14 million in construction money for the Public Safety Institute and has made funding requests to the state from 2008 through 2014 for the other five structures. 

Together, those five buildings would cost a total $60.8 million and would be constructed as funds became available. That would bring the project’s overall cost to $74.8 million.