Student Center construction on track for fall and decision on FEC building usage still pending
By Rich Harris
While Flagler College is still discussing how the Florida East Coast office buildings will be used, a recent gift to the college has provided the expanding campus with another new building.
The gift, made by Robert and JoAnn Ellert, will provide for art gallery space. Their home at 48 Sevilla St., located between the Proctor Library and the new student center, will eventually become home to the college president, and an adjoining studio space already there will be expanded to become a college art gallery. The space may also be used for special functions and receptions.
“I’m hopeful that we can start work by April,” Flagler College President William T. Abare, Jr. said about the gallery project.
JoAnn, a retired college professor, author and artist, passed away in early January. The gallery will be named the Crisp-Ellert Art Museum. Several of her self-portraits will remain in the gallery. Robert, also a retired professor and former lawyer, will remain living in the home.
If all goes well, Abare hopes the gallery will be open by January of 2008.
Meanwhile, the new student center is still on schedule to open in September 2007, with construction due to be complete this summer.
A recent survey conducted by the Campus Concerns Committee of the SGA asked students what they thought about opening the new student center to the public. The survey revealed students weren’t in for sharing the space.
“We want to make sure students have a say,” Committee Chair Emily Bermann said. She and her committee plan to take the survey results to Dean of Student Services Daniel Stewart and the President’s Advisory Council.
Survey questions asked students their preference of the student center’s hours of operation and food preferences for the new cafÃ© (See story here).
“The hot topic of the survey was whether the student center would be open to members of the St. Augustine community,” Bermann said. “Many students felt that it shouldn’t be. Several wrote on the survey that it was a ‘student’ center.” Three-hundred-six students participated in the survey. “We want students to know that their opinion counts,” Bermann said.
Stewart said only opening the food court to the public had been discussed and that no decisions had been made.
A decision on the use of the newly-acquired Florida East Coast office buildings, however, could come as early as February, according to Abare.
The Board of Trustees Finance Committee met earlier this month and will present its recommendation to the full Board when it convenes on Feb. 15.
“By the middle of February we should have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do with those buildings,” Abare said, although the board could table a decision until it felt better informed. “It’s such a significant decision for us that the board may like to study other options, possibly bring in some consultants [and] get additional input,” he said.
However, Abare says a decision would have to be made by late spring for any hope of seeing any of the buildings in use by fall 2008.
“That would be a drop dead date for me, where I think we could get the job done in 15 months,” he said.
The three buildings, while likely to become classroom, office and dormitory space, may be used in a number of capacities. The college may not even choose to renovate all three buildings at once.
“We’re going to be looking at some alternative plans for the FEC buildings. There are a lot of things that we could do down there,” Abare said, even including options like an expanded fitness and wellness center or a building dedicated to a science program.
“What we have to do is look at our most pressing needs right now and try to anticipate where we would like to be in the next 10, 15 years and make the best decision based on all of the information we have at this time.”
Previous indications were that the Communication Department would move from its home at the corner of Cordova and Cuna Streets to two floors of the FEC buildings, but Abare says “That’s jumping the gun.”
The move, he said, may not be permanent if the board decides to renovate the existing communication building.
“We’ve talked to the Communication Department; we’re having the architect draw plans as if [the move to FEC] is going to happen. But it’s a board decision. The board may decide to move the Communication Department temporarily and then do something on Cordova,” he said.