Under a large white tent on a sun-soaked Tuesday morning, Limestone College held a groundbreaking ceremony in a spot where its new 65,000-square-foot library and student center building will stand in 16 months.
The festivities took place in the parking lot area behind Montgomery Hall, just off the front campus. Construction preparations have already begun, and the anticipated occupancy date is May of 2021. The large crowd in attendance – which included students, faculty, staff, state and local officials, and area residents – was treated to a large-screen slideshow throughout the ceremony that displayed the architectural renderings of the three-story structure that will express a strong relationship to the existing historic campus architecture, while also featuring modern accents including a creative exterior brick design, a light-filled glass-wall entryway, and large gathering spaces on the inside.
“As we prepare to ceremoniously break ground on our new library and student center, I want you to think about where you are sitting or standing at this very moment,” said Limestone President Dr. Darrell Parker during his time at the podium. “Think about the building that will soon be constructed beneath your feet, above your heads, and to your sides. Take a look around you. This will be the space that will provide experiences that will enhance our current and future students’ academic experiences, socially impact their lives for a lifetime, and foster community spirit throughout Gaffney, Cherokee County, the Upstate of South Carolina, and beyond – all of which carries the mission of Limestone College outside of our classrooms.”
The $18 million dual-purpose building is being made possible as part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Program. Tim Ellis, the Area Director for South Carolina USDA, was on hand to take part in the ceremony. The USDA loan also enables Limestone to purchase Brown Residence Hall that was constructed through a partnership with a benefactor and private developer, and refinance existing debt.
Gene Moorhead, a Limestone Board of Trustees member who chaired the Library & Student Center Task Force, called the groundbreaking a milestone event for the institution that is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year and will change its name to Limestone University this summer.
“Albert Einstein once said, ‘The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.’ Well, just in case you didn’t know, that address will be 1115 College Drive, and the precise location will be where all of us are here today,” Moorhead noted. “And for good measure, along with a new state-of-the-art library, we’re throwing in a spectacular student center that is going to enrich the everyday experience of our students. It will be a game-changer for Limestone as we pursue the best and brightest minds to join our Saints family.”
Hogan Construction Group, LLC, with offices in Greenville, Charleston, and Atlanta, was awarded the construction bid. The building was designed by David Dixon with the architectural firm Craig, Gaulden, Davis.
“What a day for Limestone and our local community,” proclaimed Reggie Browning, Limestone’s Vice President for Finance & Administration. “Today, of course, represents not the finish line, but rather the starting point on an incredible journey for Limestone. Behind the scenes, before the first scoop of dirt was turned over, we have been preparing for this race. It started several years ago when Trustees like Mrs. Linda Ramage had the vision to build a new and better library for our students. Because of that vision and leadership, many of you here today, and countless others, financially invested in Limestone and that project.
“Since then, the project has grown in scope and size,” he continued. “We realized that in addition to a place to study and learn, our campus needed a space where our students, faculty, and staff could come together to socialize, enjoy a meal, and truly become what we call ‘One Limestone.’”
The new student center will be on the first floor and will include a common area, a public art gallery, a community meeting space, and an additional student dining area. The library portion will be located on the second and third floors. It will include advanced computer and audiovisual technology, a writing and math center, reading area, classrooms, and student work areas.
“This new building, even while under construction, and certainly when completed, will be one of the most important student recruitment and retention tools that Limestone has ever enjoyed,” Parker explained. “That means Limestone is about to embark on a path to growth unlike anything we have ever experienced. And we stand ready for that challenge.
“Limestone students will grow in mind, body, and spirit because of this new library and student center,” he concluded. “To each of you who have been a part of this journey, Limestone Nation thanks you.”
Following the groundbreaking, a reception was held in the nearby Carroll Hall of Fine Arts.
Once the new structure is completed, the current A.J. Eastwood Library, which opened in the 1960s, will be re-purposed for other needs as Limestone expands its existing programs and adds new initiatives.