A $22 million three-story building housing the international programs and the Honors College at Western Kentucky University will soon be under construction along College Street.

A building permit for $14,671,450 for A&K Construction of Paducah to do the work was approved this week. All costs for the project, including land purchases, engineering, demolition and financing, will amount to $22 million.

A&K also constructed Gary Ransdell Hall and put up the temporary dining facility, Topper Cafe, during the Dero Downing Student Union renovation.

“We’ve put up the temporary fence, and the rebar will be on site Monday,” said Bill Boyd, vice president for A&K Construction. There has also been some additional geological testing in light of the sinkhole awareness raised by the incident at the National Corvette Museum, in which a sinkhole opened under the museum’s Skydome, swallowing eight Corvettes.

“Everything checked out,” Boyd said.

“We’re excited to start to get it in the ground,” said John Osborne, WKU vice president for campus services and facilities. “This has been a lengthy process.”

WKU’s Board of Regents in July authorized $22 million in bonds for the International Center/Honors College building. The total $37 million bond issue also provided $15 million for the final phase of the DSU renovation. Properties had to be purchased along College Street, including the relocation of several existing buildings.

The new building allows an opportunity to consolidate offices for the 1,300-student Honors College, said Clay Motley, Honors College associate director. “The biggest impact this is going to have is we will have a student-centered space. We’re kind of removed (physically) from the students,” with the current offices in an old house on the Hill down from Cherry Hall. 

“This will foster a stronger connection,” Motley said. Many Honors College staff have offices in the Garrett Conference Center, also on the Hill. 

Students admitted to the Honors College are in the top 6 percent of students in America taking the ACT, Motley said. The Honors College was founded in 2008.

The new building is closer to the three residence halls where the Honors College students live – Minton, Bates-Runner and McLean.

Seventy percent of the space in the new building will be devoted to the university’s support programs for international students. There are nearly 1,000 international students representing about 70 countries at WKU. Motley said as students enter the new facility they will be drawn immediately to the study abroad department. Motley said about 60 percent of Honors College students study overseas before graduating.

The just under 70,000-square-foot facility is slated to open July 1, 2015, said Kerra Ogden, project manager for capital construction at WKU. 

The building will sport some special touches, such as three British telephone booths in the lobby, Ogden said. Outside, 20 flagpoles will display flags of the countries from which WKU international students hail. There will also be an outdoor classroom area behind the building. 

Ogden and Motley said the plan is to provide as many opportunities as possible for international and Honor College students to gather. “We’ve brought in a branding consultant to help with the project,” Ogden said.

Motley said Honors College students are not walled off from the rest of the campus. 

“Our purpose is to help WKU in all of its academic units,” Motley said.

— Follow education reporter Chuck Mason on Twitter at twitter.com/bgdnschools or visit bgdailynews.com.

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