Education complex nears completion


Workers poured concrete on the footpath outside Florida A&M’s Gore Education Complex and smoothed steps on the new stairwell Thursday as 15 months of construction  came to an end.

Inside, other workers pulled phone and Internet cables into winding labyrinths in server rooms, installed aluminum panels in the ceilings of covered walkways, checked electrical supplies and plumbing and swept floors.

Every few minutes, lights flashed and fire alarms blared. Workers seemed oblivious. They kept moving and hauling and drilling as though nothing had changed while fire inspectors combed all three floors of Buildings A, B and C of the Gore complex to determine whether the buildings are safe.

“We’re testing them to make sure everything’s ready,” said Gary Meredith, senior project manager at Baycrest Corporation, which is in charge of construction management.

 Baycrest reached “substantial completion” last week, meaning the firm is close to finishing the $10 million renovation. Students say they are looking forward to the improved Gore complex, which will include smart classrooms, motion-sensing lights, a new entrance and a wall of fame for distinguished alumni.   

“Being at substantial completion means we’re ready to turn the project over for use,” Meredith said.

Although work is winding down, it is still an active construction site. Signs remind workers and visitors to “keep doors closed.” Door handles are wrapped. A few frames are missing glass panels and boxes of new supplies stretch along various sections of the buildings.

Workers have replaced the roofs, added new carpets, remodeled classrooms and restrooms, added reflective glass panels and aluminum sunscreens along with other spruce-ups such as planted trees and artificial turf. 

Meredith and his team will be working for another two weeks in November and for a few weeks in December once the university is closed for winter break. 

Students said they believe that restoring outdated buildings and modernizing classrooms will boost campus morale.

“I am hopeful it’ll be similar to Tucker Hall,” said Miguel Rivera, a 22-year-old senior English student from Tallahassee. “I think it’s an enormous benefit for the campus.I think it motivates the students.”

Tucker Hall and Jones Hall are two other campus buildings that received large-scale renovations in recent years. Contractors added projector and computer facilities for classrooms in both buildings. In Jones Hall, contractors upgraded the laboratories and in Tucker Hall, rebuilt the second-floor Gallery of Distinction, an area that features photos of outstanding alumni of FAMU’s arts and sciences programs.

The Gore complex’s new Gallery of Distinction will feature marble engravings of at least the current 35 members. It will be outside Buildings A and B and facing the new Gamble Street entrance. 

Earlier contractors have improved the technology and aesthetics in Tucker Hall and Jones Hall while preserving the sites’ architecture. Baycrest has done the same for the Gore complex. And that suits senior English student Harold Anderson just fine.

 “I think giving a facelift to the campus is a good idea,” said 23-year-old Anderson, a native of Jacksonville. “I’m expecting a nice, cleaner look. I like how they kept the historical value but they redo the inside.”

The College of Education has been operating from the former FAMU DRS building. The classrooms fit 20 or more students and the auditoriums fit at least 60. Most of these rooms, however, do not have computers and monitors built in.

“It’s kind of boring to go into,” said Tiara Glover,  a 20-year-old junior secondary education student from Orlando.

 With the new classrooms, I hope the students will be more engaged,” Administrators at the College of Education are planning to overhaul the education curriculum to better provide for minority students and train teachers for self-evaluation, and Interim Associate Dean of Assessment and Accountability Mark Howse said the Gore complex remodel happened “at a very good time.”

“We’re looking to complement our production of effective teachers and leaders. It’s important that teachers-in-training experience learning spaces similar to the real world,” said Howse. He also said students can expect some “very significant changes to our curriculum.” 

FAMU is still awaiting delivery of furniture for the classrooms and administrative offices. Desks and chairs are scheduled to arrive on Dec. 17, said Craig Talton, project manager at FAMU’s Offices of Facilities, Planning and Construction. 

He said he expects College of Education officials to begin using the buildings “either before Christmas or during Christmas break.”

Baycrest also remodeled Sampson Hall and Young Hall, two men’s dormitories that had been closed for years. Baycrest, along with partners Premier Construction and Development Inc., also laid the foundation for the new 800-room student dormitory at the former Polkinghorne Village site. That was before a contractual dispute between Premier and FAMU’s Board of Trustees ended the work in August.