Construction to Begin for UB's New Educational Opportunity Center in Downtown Buffalo

Release Date: September 14, 2010

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UB has broken ground on the new $46 million Educational Opportunity Center located adjacent to the Downtown Gateway.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo broke ground today, Sept. 14, on its new $46 million downtown Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), the university's foremost initiative for training urban community member for jobs and preparing them for higher education.

About 200 people attended the ceremony at 77 Goodell St., which included "groundbreaking" by university, state and local officials instrumental in the new construction and educational planning for the new building. Each participant at the ceremony was equipped with a commemorative shovel to inaugurate the upcoming two years of construction.

Speakers included UB President John B. Simpson, EOC Executive Director Sherryl Weems, Assembly Member Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown and William Chalmers, SUNY assistant provost and director of the SUNY University Center for Academic and Workforce Development.

Simpson said construction of the new EOC "marks a major step forward for UB 2020, and for the continuing commitment to community engagement that is such a vital part of UB's mission as a public research university." With UB's Downtown Gateway (the former M. Wile building), the new EOC will form UB's Downtown Gateway Complex, which will focus on extending and expanding UB's resources to the downtown community.

"This new complex ensures that the indelible mark that the EOC has already made on our community will continue to grow well into the future," Simpson said.

"UB's academic and community assets are our region's assets -- and UB is committed to shaping Buffalo's future by coordinating our wide range of community resources together with this state-of-the-art complex. The new complex has been meticulously designed to facilitate

collaboration and allow EOC students to learn in an environment that will inspire vision and provide an opportunity to achieve promising futures."

Peoples-Stokes said the new EOC represents a "commitment to workforce development that gives residents of this city hope.

"Each step toward preparing the workforce allows the community to meet the needs of the biomedical corridor and its employment opportunities," she added. "It was a pleasure to work with UB and the EOC toward making this project a reality."

The new EOC facility will replace the EOC's present site at 465 Washington St., and allow the EOC to reach even more than the 2,000 people who now take part annually in the organization's services. EOC programs and services include classes in remedial and academic preparation, as well as specific job training programs in allied health, life sciences, information technology and environmental industries.

"The more than 40-year evolution of our University at Buffalo EOC has been influenced by the promise of a new, state-of-the-art, educational and job-training facility," said the EOC's Weems, who also serves as UB associate vice provost for continuing and professional studies. "We are poised to elevate programming to new heights, expand services into the community and maximize working partnerships all toward achieving the priority objective of improving educational service and supportive delivery to a well-deserved population of adult students."

The new EOC is one of two targeted construction projects for Educational Opportunity Centers and is funded by the SUNY Construction Fund. The other current project, the Rochester EOC, will involve program expansion into a newly renovated business and education complex. While other EOCs across the state have their unique features, the Buffalo and Rochester EOCs are innovative models to which other centers can aspire, Weems said.

SUNY's Chalmers said this "historic and long-awaited day will create a new reality for serving thousands of educationally and economically challenged New Yorkers.

"Breaking ground for this unbelievable project signals that Educational Opportunity Centers have finally been recognized as adult education institutions, and not mere programs," he added. "EOCs are institutions whose students deserve to learn in an environment that will spawn creativity, innovation and motivate them to strive for excellence."

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 the Bethel 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 integrated throughout 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 UB EOC is 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 SUNY oversight office of the EOC. For more than 40 years the EOC has helped adults access higher education, obtain gainful employment and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

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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