Univ. Center breaks ground for new classrooms, labs

Brittany Westerberg

Brittany Westerberg

The University Center in Sioux Falls, which is home to over 2,000 students, will move out of Southeast Technical Institute and into its own new buildings next year.

The Center broke ground on Aug. 29 at the site for the new buildings on the corner of 60th Street and North Career Avenue in Sioux Falls. By next year, the nearly 100,000 square foot site, purchased from the state transportation department, will hold a $6.3 million Center for Graduate Education and Applied Research (GEAR) and a $15.7 million classroom building.

“This ceremonial groundbreaking is really the culmination of years of work by visionary leaders who see the need for public higher education in South Dakota’s largest and fastest growing community,” said Mark Lee, the executive director of the University Center.

The GEAR Center will be 21,000 square feet and home to research activities intended to establish a new level of economic development for the community. Hopefully, the research center will mesh with the Avera Health and Sanford Health commitments to biomedical research and complement or compete with research at the University of South Dakota, Dakota State University and here at SDSU.

The classroom facility will be almost 60,000 square feet and house 22 classrooms, a 24-seat physics lab, computer labs, an art classroom, offices, study alcoves and a journalism studio. A skyway, which will also serve as a modest student union, will span the road and connect the classroom building with the research center.

“Between the two we’re going to have a real significant footprint out here,” Lee said, “not only from an education perspective but from starting an entire research activity.”

The site is set to open in fall 2008 at capacity, with prospective numbers of 3,000 to 3,500. “It’s a wonderful problem to have,” Harvey Jewett, president of the South Dakota Board of Regents, said. The Center will grow over the next decade to meet student demand, officials said at the ceremony.

“There’s plenty of room here to expand, and that’s really the idea,” Jewett said. “This was designed to accommodate what might happen.”

The University Center is currently a partnership of five South Dakota universities-the University of South Dakota, Dakota State University, Black Hills State University, Northern State University and SDSU. Since 2001, the number of students attending classes at the Center has increased by 78 percent, and now the Center offers more than 650 courses.

Governor Mike Rounds attended the ceremony. He said that the campus will increase incomes in the area and encourage businesses to expand or move here. “To offer our young people and people who are young at heart an opportunity to improve themselves and have a better life, that’s what this is all about,” Rounds said.

The GEAR Center will be the first building in the proposed University Center Science and Technology Park. University Center officials are asking for potential development proposals for the research park.

Officials soliciting proposals will rely on the expertise of SDSU President David Chicoine, who was vice president for technology and economic development at the University of Illinois and was extensively involved with the expansion of three research parks. According to Chicoine, when done right, university-affiliated research parks are formidable economic development engines.

#1.883344:1548558047.jpg:south image.universitycenter.org.jpg:Artist’s rendering of what the new University Center campus will look like.:University Relations