CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Lee University has put down the foundation of a $10 million communication arts building and purchased more office space this summer.
A truck on Friday hauled away the last of the heavy excavation machinery as crews continued ground work at the site of the planned communication arts building, between Church and Ocoee streets on the southwestern corner of campus. The project broke ground in mid-July and the 40,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open by August 2014, according to Lee University officials.
"It's exciting finally to be starting on this project," Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn said in a news release. "It's going to connect our campus directly to the downtown business district in a beautiful and dynamic way."
"We are excited to get under way," said Cole Strong, director of special projects in the office of Lee's president. "It's going to be an exciting next couple of months."
The facility will include a state-of-the-art "black box" theater seating 200 for stage productions and a 120-seat film screening theater. Other features include student journalism and computer labs, a television studio and soundstage and eight video editing suites, Lee officials said.
The new building is intended to serve increasing growth of Lee University's Department of Communication Arts, school officials said. Last year the department served 369 students seeking degrees in communication studies, public relations, theater and digital media.
The department is doing "[some] of the most remarkable and creative work at Lee," Conn said. "It's time for us to give them a space of their own, with top-notch equipment and facilities.
"I believe this is one of the brightest areas at Lee moving into the future," he said.
Plans also are under way for the Church Street Annex, which was the old sanctuary of First Baptist Church, officials said.
The facility will be incorporated into the School of Music and renamed Pangle Hall, said Brian Conn, director of communications for Lee University. Renovations, which will include changing the building's exterior and replacing its steeple to match other campus facilities, are expected to be completed in time to coincide with the opening of the new communication arts building.
Lee University recently moved forward with another part of its campus expansion with the purchase of the Monument Building at 750 Broad St.
The two-story structure, built in the mid-1970s, will serve as much-needed office space, said Jerome Hammond, vice president for university relations.
"We're in a major downtown construction project that will reshape the Lee campus and reimagine that part of the downtown," Hammond said. "This acquisition is an important part of that plan."
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.