Start of UK Gatton building expansion helps show success of private funding options

lblackford@herald-leader.comOctober 11, 2013 

When donors and politicians hoist the first shovel of dirt at the University of Kentucky's Gatton College of Business and Economics on Friday, officials say it will be more than just a groundbreaking.

The expansion and renovation of Gatton will be totally funded by private donations, and UK has raised almost $45 million of the $65 million price tag.

"This represents to me the confidence that so many have in the University of Kentucky and the College of Business," UK President Eli Capilouto said earlier this week. "We made a pledge to try to raise all of this money ... what I've learned is there is great affection and appreciation for what the University of Kentucky has meant to individuals, and they want to invest in its future."

The Gatton School started raising money last March by securing $23 million from four major donors: C.M. "Bill" Gatton; Don and Cathy Jacobs; Howard Lewis; and William Seale. Gatton, the Jacobs and Lewis will be at Friday's ceremony.

Gatton Dean David Blackwell said the legislature authorized UK to issue $40 million in bonds, debt that will be paid back through donations.

"Unlike other projects, this will be done entirely through philanthropy," Blackwell said.

The expansion, designed by New York architect Robert A.M. Stern, will help Gatton's enrollment increase from about 2,900 to 4,000. Business is one of UK's most popular undergraduate majors.

"It will help the whole university if we can grow," Blackwell said. "It's not just opening the doors, but to have the growth of good students who would not otherwise have chosen UK."

The construction process will be a complicated one, with phased building on each of Gatton's two wings at different times.

"I like how creatively they've taken two buildings built 30 years apart and integrated them into a seamless whole that looks very modern and contemporary and fits in with architecture on campus," Blackwell said. "They've really opened up the inside with a lot more natural light everywhere. We want the students to live and study here 24/7."

Although some classrooms will be open at different times during construction, most faculty will move their offices to UK's recently acquired Lexington Theological Seminary property on the other side of Limestone.

The expansion will be finished in the spring of 2016, Blackwell said.

The Gatton expansion is the first academic building project under way. UK is also planning to build a $100 million science building, most of which will be paid for by UK athletics. A $110 million upgrade to Commonwealth Stadium is also under way.

In addition, UK has entered into an agreement with a private developer to build 9,000 new beds on campus at a cost of $500 million. The first new dorms opened this fall.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359Twitter: @lbblackford

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