“Look beside you,” said Virginia State University President Keith T. Miller speaking at the recent groundbreaking ceremony to a standing-room only crowd. “Your neighbor may look differently; have different beliefs; but everyone here will benefit from this facility.”
An effort between VSU and regional partners made the facility a reality. Located near the intersection of Third Avenue and Watson Street, it will serve as the university’s first impression as well as an anchor for an ongoing revitalization effort. Plans call for building a retail and residential corridor on 3.2 acres along Chesterfield Avenue. Officials from VSU, Chesterfield, Petersburg and Colonial Heights attended the ceremony.
The project is the cornerstone of a partnership between VSU and Chesterfield. Designed to revitalize Ettrick by adding a proposed retail and residential corridor on 3.2 acres along Chesterfield Avenue, the building will take about 22 months to complete.
“As we work together, our community will become better and better,” Miller said. “This facility will be a symbol. It’s a symbol for a new day. It’s a symbol for unity in this community.”
It is the only facility of its type between Richmond and Raleigh, N.C. It is expected to serve as a cultural hub for a wide swath of Southside Virginia. Joining Miller in the groundbreaking ceremony was Virginia’s secretary of education and a VSU alumnus Javaid Siddiqi, who grew up in Ettrick. Also on hand was Steve Elswick, vice chairman of Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors; members of VSU’s Board of Visitors, Foundation and Real Estate Foundation; and representatives of Ballard Construction, the lead contractor; and project architects and engineers Clark-Nexsen.
The 165,941 square-foot building can seat more people than the existing gym. It will replace Daniel Gymnasium.
The center will not only contain a single large gathering space, it will provide meeting and classroom space, a student wellness center and locker rooms. A banquet kitchen that can accommodate events up to 900 will be on site. Special guests will also be able to enjoy six VIP suites.
The university estimates that the project will take 22 months to complete, with an estimated cost of construction of $57 million. The total cost of the project is $84 million. George Anas, a member of the university’s Board of Visitors, said that the additional $27 million included costs such as site work fees and land acquisition.
For the design of the facility, the university hired Clark-Nexsen Architects and Engineers of Norfolk, assisted by AECOM. The construction will be done by Ballard Construction, and McDonough Bolyard Peck – a construction consulting firm – will assist with project implementation and management.
Stephen Elswick, Matoaca district supervisor, described the new building as “the kick off” for revitalizing the university, South Chesterfield, and the village of Ettrick.
County and university officials have praised the retail and residential project as a chance to turn Ettrick into a “true college town,” with amenities in a pedestrian friendly area.
The project is being discussed as Chesterfield prepares to widen East River Road to four lanes to provide a main artery to campus and surrounding areas. Chesterfield County Planning Commission approved the project at a Dec. 17 meeting. The project proposal will then go before the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors in January.
Bob Turner, executive director of the Virginia State University Foundation, said that his organization, along with the Virginia State University Real Estate Foundation, was looking for funding opportunities for the project. He said that a number of investors have expressed interest.
Both foundations are overseeing the planning of the project, and together form the Virginia State University Trojan Development LLC. Construction is expected to begin in late spring.