by Katherine Williams
Last Friday afternoon, over 200 people braved the chilly, but sunny, afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking for Virginia State University’s new multipurpose center. The center will be the first of its kind for southeast Virginia. The center is a culmination of a coalition extending out from the university including the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors, the Chesterfield Planning Commission, Petersburg City Council, the City of Colonial Heights, the state Department of Education and the Virginia House of Delegates among others.
According to VSU’s President Keith T Miller “…use will extend from Richmond down to the Carolinas, from young children to senior citizens…” He stressed that this will be a unifying project giving people of all walks of life access to the university.
The center is being touted as a first step in the transformation and revitalization for the Village of Ettrick. The center will be able to welcome over 5,000 people for sports events and over 6,000 for stage events and concerts. These patrons will bring activity and dollars to this corner of Chesterfield. The mass communications department, hospitality department and fitness center will serve the university’s students and the public.
Steve Ballard of SB Ballard Construction Company expects to hand over this “high quality” building in twenty months. Gary Bright, architect at Clark-Nexsen, has worked with the university for the last six years beginning with the creation of a university master plan document. The building is designed to be high-performing and will have increased efficiency because of a building envelope using state of the art insulation technology. Displays highlighting the history of Ettrick will share the history of the place with the public.
Chesterfield native, VSU alum, and Secretary of Education, Javaid Siddiqi heralded President Miller’s vision and leadership to move the university forward and in bringing this project to fruition. As a kid growing up next to VSU, he spent a lot of time on campus and touted what this will mean to VSU. He expressed excitement for the changes to Ettrick to have space for gathering on campus. Siddiqi said that the governor’s office has prioritized increasing access to college by supporting these type of capital projects all over the state.
Matoaca district supervisor, Steve Elswick, expressed his pride for the project and Dr Miller. He highlighted that the county will soon go to work on the widening of Chesterfield Avenue, part of the county’s commitment to facilitate this growth. In addition, the university foundation has an adjacent project with 15,000 square feet of retail and 62 apartments that is currently scheduled to be heard at the planning commission this month.
With this new 165,000 square feet development, Chesterfield County and Virginia can expect a new face for VSU and Ettrick coming in 2015.