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Aglow with innovation
Fab new City Campus plans revealed
Topped by a glass covering, the alley is proposed to become usable space tying the expanded Georgia Southern University City Campus and new Fab Lab building together on East Main Street. - photo by Special

When the Fab Lab, devoted to developing ideas for new products and businesses, opens in the building next to Georgia Southern University's existing City Campus in downtown Statesboro, the alley between the two will be transformed into an open-ended "outdoor room" with a glass roof.

At night, the alley off East Main Street will glow white with LED lighting, changing colors to, quite literally, "Go Blue!" on occasion. Studio 3 Design Group's principal architect Richard Hinman Jr., project manager Paul A. Sandifer Jr. and interior designer Jennifer Wallace Jamison shared the concept drawings last week with City Council, which unanimously approved.

Benches, brick pavers underfoot and the curved glass letting in natural light above, Sandifer explained, will help create the "outdoor room" effect. Removable bollards at the alley entrances on East Main and East Vine streets will bar car and truck traffic. Planters and a "green" or sustainability wall, covered in plants, will frame the edges.

"This would totally open a doorway between East Main Street and Vine Street and also would be an entry lobby to the City Campus itself," Sandifer said.

The covered alley will connect the original City Campus building, which will serve as the public entrance, to the Fab Lab and Business Incubator building, where a card key system will allow only member entrepreneurs, faculty or escorted guests to enter.

At times as part of larger events on East Main Street or East Vine Street, the alley should be usable year-round for occasions such as art sales and musical performances, Sandifer said.

Emotional ties

The university challenged the architects to help create emotional ties between City Campus and Georgia Southern's main campus, said Dominique Halaby, the director of the university's Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development. Having students maintain the green wall is one strategy. Changing the glow from light-emitting diodes is another.

The alley should look pretty in soft, white light most nights, Halaby said.

"Except, when Georgia Southern wins, or at commencement or on key events, we want that thing lit blue so you have this blue alley that ties back into the core of what it means to be home to the greatest university in the country," he said. "We want to have that emotional connection extended back into the campus for our students."

After the city and university proposed the City Campus expansion plans as a shared project, the U.S. Economic Development Administration last year awarded them a $1.1 million grant for the construction.

With the city having provided a partial match of about $800,000 through its purchase of the former Yard & Haus building at 62 E. Main St. from Farmers & Merchants Bank and the existing City Campus next door from the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, the total building and renovation cost will be almost $1.9 million.

The Averitt Center for the Arts also has a share in the plan, with the two-story back portion of the City Campus building, which is now the Averitt Center's dance studio, to become the Art Incubator, with ceramics and two-dimensional arts facilities and an open studio, plus smaller, enclosed studios to rent to artists.

The back portion of the former Yard & Haus building will become the Business Incubator, with offices rentable to entrepreneurs for startup businesses. Near the middle, plans show a table in an open-sided area called the "think tank."

Up front is the fabrication laboratory proper, with 3-D printers that will "print," from layers of plastic fibers, prototypes or improvements. Other rooms will house water jet cutting machines and CNC (computer numerical control) routers for shaping materials such as foam and wood.

"It's all going to be glassed, open so people can view and watch what's happening in there," Hinman said.

City Campus renovations

The existing City Campus space will also undergo renovations. The GSU Small Business Development Center, now in rented space near the hospital, will then move into this building, which is already home to the Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development.

That phase of the renovations should begin within a few weeks, with the more-extensive construction in the Fab Lab building and alley likely to start at the end of the year or early in 2015, Halaby said. Chosen to serve as a construction management-type contractor, BAK Builders is helping to scale the project to remain within budget, he said.

The grants pay for the construction, but not for all the equipment that will be needed. So the city, the arts center and the university are working together "to leverage more moneys," Halaby said in an interview.
Planners hope the renewed City Campus will be complete by August.

"We're dreaming big and we have a great opportunity to really make a signature location for not just what it is that we're doing in terms of entrepreneurship and business innovation, but for the community as a whole," Halaby said.


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