UB Announces Plans for New Educational Opportunity Center, Downtown Gateway

Employment training and opportunities, community programming, to be focus of new complex

Release Date: May 22, 2009

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UB has announced plans to build a new Educational Opportunity Center that, with the former M. Wile building, will make up the UB Downtown Gateway Complex.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo today announced plans to build in downtown Buffalo a new home for its Educational Opportunity Center, as part of an effort to provide expanded job-skills training and community programming to Buffalo residents.

When completed, the four-story EOC building will be connected to the former M. Wile building to form the $46 million UB Downtown Gateway Complex located at 77 Goodell St. A cornerstone of UB's downtown campus, the Gateway Complex will provide the Buffalo Niagara community with greater access to UB's academic and community programs, strengths and resources toward the goal of enhancing the quality of life in Buffalo and its surrounding communities.

The project is made possible largely through the leadership of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Assembly and Assembly Member Crystal Peoples, all of whom worked for several years to secure $26 million in funding for the new EOC building. New York State provided an additional $20 million in previous budget cycles to fund renovation of the former M. Wile building and construct a 4,900-square-foot glass atrium connecting the building to the new EOC.

UB President John B. Simpson said construction of the new EOC and creation of the UB Downtown Gateway Complex "represents one of the university's most significant expansions downtown to date and advances the UB 2020 strategic plan's focus on more effectively aligning the university's programs to maximize their impact on downtown Buffalo and the surrounding region."

"By coordinating a wide range of community resources -- from academic programming to job training and employment opportunity programs -- together in the same complex, UB is working to extend the reach of our academic and community assets, and to make them more accessible for Buffalo residents," Simpson noted. "We are very grateful to Assembly Member Peoples for her leadership in helping UB expand and improve its services and facilities in downtown Buffalo. Indeed, it was Assembly Member Peoples' appropriation for the EOC that encouraged UB to consider how we could bring our many community-focused assets into a single location."

Groundbreaking for the new EOC is expected in August 2010; construction is slated to be completed in 2012.

The EOC provides disenfranchised urban community members with innovative academic programs that prepare them for higher education and vocational training. Part of a statewide network of 10 Educational Opportunity Centers and two Outreach and Counseling Centers operated under the University Center for Academic and Workforce Development -- the State University of New York oversight office of the EOC -- for more than 40 years the EOC has helped people access higher education, obtain gainful employment and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

"The EOC is a vital part of our community that bridges that gap for many who are looking for access to educational opportunities, job-readiness training and the creation of jobs. I am happy to see UB moving forward with its plans to play an integral role in the development of downtown Buffalo," Peoples said. "The proximity of these new facilities will help the community feel more connected to the university's resources and help UB to meet the community's needs."

The Downtown Gateway Complex will link the EOC to UB programs slated to relocate to the renovated M. Wile building: the UB Center for Educational Collaboration, clinics and programs of the Law School and School of Social Work that serve the downtown population, and UB's Regional Institute. In addition, the Buffalo Employment Training Center (BETC) is located in Downtown Gateway Complex. Each of these programs addresses the challenges of unemployment, inadequate housing and poverty confronting Buffalo. Physical proximity to the EOC will enable UB to have a greater impact on the community by providing a streamlined pathway from job-skills development to job opportunities, and by sparking new opportunities for community enhancement. UB/MD also will have a presence in the building.

"This is very exciting news that confirms the promise of UB 2020 and the significant impact the UB Downtown Gateway Complex will have in the City of Buffalo," said Mayor Byron W. Brown. "I commend UB President John Simpson for his leadership in creating UB 2020 and committing to a larger university presence in our downtown.

"I also thank our New York State legislative delegation, notably Assembly Member Crystal Peoples, for their dedication in accessing key state funding to make this $46 million project a reality. I look forward to the university's expanded Educational Opportunity Center and the increased job-skills training and community programming the EOC will provide to city residents."

Designed by Holt Architects of Ithaca under the oversight of the State University Construction Fund, the new 63,834-square-foot EOC building will be constructed primarily of environmentally friendly, durable fiber cement panels and glass. The design will feature large window frames and open stairways that bring natural light into the building, and offer faculty, staff and students dynamic views of the city.

The first floor of the EOC will contain a conference center, enrollment management suite, career services suite and support spaces, in addition to a Head Start program, which will have an independent entrance and an enclosed outdoor playground.

Classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, a computer lab, library, "information commons" and student and faculty lounges will be located on the top three floors.

The building will be LEED certified in keeping with the goals of the UB 2020 strategic plan's focus on making the university's three campuses great places to live, work and learn, in part by improving their environmental sustainability.

The new EOC will be New York State's first newly constructed Educational Opportunity Center, and a model to which other centers will aspire, said Sherryl D. Weems, EOC executive director and UB associate vice provost for continuing and professional studies. Other EOCs have been housed in renovated buildings.

"The construction of this facility for the Buffalo EOC signals that Educational Opportunity Centers have a permanent place within the structure of the State University system," said William Chalmers, assistant provost and interim director, SUNY University Center for Academic and Workforce Development. "This project opens the possibility that all EOC students can learn in an environment that sparks creativity and signals hope for their futures."

The new facility will greatly expand the range and scope of services offered by the EOC, providing a "front door" where the community and UB meet, Weems said.

The center's current location at 465 Washington St. has historically separated the EOC from the rest of the UB community, Weems said. "The new building, as part of the UB Downtown Gateway Complex, will solidify our relationship with UB and afford essential physical and conceptual synergies leading to enhanced professional collegiality and student exposure."

The new building will allow EOC to increase the number of students and community members served through its comprehensive curriculum that includes remedial and academic programming, as well as an expansive portfolio of specific job training programs in allied health, life science, information technology and in trades related to environmental industries.

"The new site offers tremendous opportunity," said Weems. "It encourages the expansion of the range and scope of services offered by the EOC; the development of integrated service models utilizing the new division as a pivotal entity for planning, organizing and implementing new programs and services; and an increase in community outreach and involvement on all levels."

The lobby connecting the two buildings also will be multifunctional. In addition to serving as a reception area for the complex, the lobby will feature an open classroom/theater space for public events, a flexible exhibition/gathering space and self-service digital information kiosks.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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