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Vision 2020: ECU fuels city's growth

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The site of an old factory that is to be rennovated by ECU on July 27, 2016. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)


Shannon Keith

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The surge of development coming in Greenville is amplified by ongoing growth at East Carolina University and its expansion into downtown and a new millennial campus.

“It is a very exciting time,” said Rick Niswander, ECU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance. “People are going to look back in five years and say ‘Wow!’”

By 2020, ECU is planning more than $320 million in development projects on campus and in downtown Greenville and downtown fringe areas.

Current and future projects the university is planning include:

• A new student union, a $122 million project off 10th Street in front of Mendenhall Student Center. Construction began earlier this year and will continue through summer 2018.

• Student Services Building/One Stop Shop, a $60 million facility on Third and Cotanche streets that will house essential services such as the registrar's office, admissions office and some counseling services. The facility also will be the site of Heritage Hall, an interactive museum-like space that will honor the university's history.

• A $55 million expansion of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that will focus primarily on the stadium’s south side. Construction is targeted for completion before the start of the 2018 season.

• A planned $15 million hotel on the corner of Fourth and Reade streets, which will include a new East Carolina University alumni center.

• Renovations to the last of the three high-rise dorms on campus, which is expected to be completed this year, as well as additional planned dorm renovations.

• The Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building, a $90 million facility that will house the university’s biology and biomedical/bioprocess engineering departments as well as the Center for Excellence for Pharmaceutical Development Manufacturing. Funded by the Connect NC bond, it is expected to support the growth of ECU’s engineering programs from 700 to 1,000 students by 2019.

Niswander said the number of major projects the university is balancing is unparalleled in its history.

“I cannot remember a time when we’ve had this much going on at once,” he said. “It will be a lot of work, but we have an extremely good construction group and engineers that are handling these projects.”

ECU also will be redeveloping a seven-block area in Greenville’s warehouse district to create its millennial campus. The 22.3-acre site is expected to host where the university can collaborate with private companies to commercialize research discoveries and offer advanced training to benefit the region’s high-tech industries.

Niswander said the project initially would focus on the Export Tobacco Leaf factory known as the Haynie Building on 10th Street, which covers the entire block between Pitt and Greene streets. 

“The millennial campus will be a multi-year, multi-decade process,” he said. “It has the potential to create a lot of opportunity in the region.”

Officials are considering the campus as a site for the The Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building.

Niswander said the university’s plan for the site is compatible with the city’s vision of creating a mixed-use innovation district that promotes mixed-use developments, where restaurants, shops, offices, some types of manufacturing, student and market-rate housing and even parks are within walking distance for residents in the area.

“We talk to the city often ... it is important that we align our plans as much as we can,” Niswander said. “The future of Uptown Greenville and ECU are tied together. It is better for both entities if we work together.”


Contact Shannon Keith at skeith@reflector.com and 329-9579.