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New College excited about new facility

MANATEE — This fall, New College of Florida expects to open an $11 million Academic Center and Plaza, which would become the hub of campus life — a geographic, architectural, intellectual and social focal point.

Designed by the urban planning and architectural firm Moule & Polyzoides, of Pasadena, Calif., and slated to be built by Ajax Building Construction of Florida, the new 35,000-square-foot facility — on the west side of U.S. 41 and just north of Jane Bancroft Cook Library — will house classrooms, faculty offices and a courtyard café that will be open to the public.

Money for the project was provided by the state, but naming rights for the building are still up for grabs for a mere $5 million, officials said.

“This beautiful and highly visible structure, located at the gateway between Sarasota and Manatee counties, will serve as a symbol of the wonderful community support New College has enjoyed ever since our founding in 1960,” said New College President Gordon E. “Mike” Michalson Jr.

A key component of New College’s 2006 Campus Master Plan, the new center and its spacious outdoor plaza promises to become a central hub for student activities on the College’s Palmer, or Bayfront, campus, officials said.

“I’m about as excited as I can get,” said Chase William Sokolow, past co-president of the New College Student Alliance, who gave the project a big thumbs-up.

College officials celebrated the ground-breaking for the new facility Tuesday.

“As New College prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2010-2011, it seems fitting that we should break ground on a new facility that so proudly proclaims our academic focus and sense of intellectual community,” said Michalson.

Its location also will enable the college to maximize the technological developments taking place at the library under the direction of its new dean, Brian Doherty, they said, adding that the developments have been made possible in part due to federal funding obtained by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.