Gateway Community College (GCC) recently held grand opening ceremonies for its new $198 million downtown campus, one of the largest construction projects the state of Connecticut has ever undertaken.
The new campus brings hundreds of jobs and thousands of students to downtown New Haven and adds a new higher education partner to the downtown landscape.
It also transforms a former brownfield into a state-of-the-art “green” facility as the largest public project in Connecticut and the largest project on any college campus in the state that is designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The day-long grand opening festivities began in the morning with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and speakers, and continued throughout the afternoon with campus tours and an open house.
GCC President Dr. Dorsey L. Kendrick began her remarks by thanking the taxpayers of Connecticut and everyone who had a role in helping to make the new campus a reality.
“In the beginning, we had both a great challenge and an ambitious dream: a state-of-the-art, unified campus to better serve the educational needs of our students and our community,” Kendrick said. “We believed in our dream. We persevered. And, together with our partners and supporters, we acted. And build we did. We watched in awe as this amazing building rose in steel, concrete and glass over the past months, taking its rightful place in the downtown New Haven skyline, where it will serve as a center of learning, promise and hope.”
“Now, at last, we are poised to begin the real journey, the one that truly counts,” she said. “It’s time for us together as faculty, staff, administration, students, parents, business leaders, community members and supporters to deliver on the promise and the potential this new campus offers. We must grow. We must excel. But most of all, we must educate and graduate students well-prepared to meet society’s challenges and become contributing, productive, active citizens. And we will do all this not only because it’s what’s expected of us, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
GCC is one of the Connecticut’s fastest growing community colleges and the 10th largest institution of higher education in the state, serving more than 11,000 credit and non-credit students each year. GCC has been challenged for the past several years to accommodate its burgeoning student body within its two former campuses, at 60 Sargent Drive in New Haven and 88 Bassett Road in North Haven. For more than a decade, the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education and GCC pursued the merging of the two campuses in order to provide a unified education program designed to meet the needs of the greater New Haven community. The new campus consolidates those two campuses and increases GCC’s enrollment capacity by 50 percent. A few GCC programs that require more space, like its Automotive Program, remain at the North Haven campus.
The 3.7-acre campus occupies two city blocks in the heart of downtown New Haven. The two buildings, which total 367,000 square feet, are connected by a three-story bridge over George Street. The campus features 90 state-of-the-art classrooms and teaching laboratories, a three-story Library and Learning Commons, a cafeteria, a culinary center, a bookstore, an art gallery, a Community Center, a small business center, and a 600-car parking garage. The garage, combined with 700 leased spaces at the adjacent Temple Street garage, give the new facility more total parking spaces than its two former campuses combined.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was one of many officials who helped to cut the ribbon today, said the new campus will help ensure that Connecticut can compete on a global stage. “That’s the goal. Not just the building of a building, not just a celebration of a day, but to bring about real change in higher education in the state of Connecticut, making sure that our population can compete with anyone in the world,” Malloy said. “And no other standard is applicable. We simply have got to begin to win those competitions. And if we do the payoff is gigantic. It will change lives.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the campus delivers a powerful message to students in the greater New Haven region: “This beautiful building says, ‘We value you. We value you as an individual. We value your aspirations, your dreams and your hopes that you will realize in these classrooms.”
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and others commented on the importance of where the new campus is located in the heart of downtown. “Each day the first thing that everybody who comes into downtown New Haven is going to see is Gateway Community College,” DeStefano said. “It’s the first thing they are going to see. And I think that’s appropriate because of the values of this state and of this city and the importance of putting our workforce development institutions next to our major employers. And while there is another college downtown, Gateway Community College will be the first college they will see and it will be the college that will serve our families, our businesses and deliver our possibilities and opportunities.”
GCC’s Student Government Association President Symphany Joseph agreed with DeStefano. “I'm looking forward to having more students take advantage of their own learning potential,” she said. “This new building won’t just help our students, it will better our community, too.”