Dr. W. Kent Fuchs
President, University of Florida

The signs of progress around Gainesville are unmistakable.

Construction cranes on and off campus tower in every direction. Streets and sidewalks are filled with people on a mission. Perhaps most notable, the city is imbued with a sense of purpose and optimism.

I have lived here for two years, but longtime residents tell me they have never seen the city and the campus filled with such energy and enthusiasm.

Here are just a few prominent examples of our dynamic rapid growth:

  • The Chemistry/Chemical Biology Building — Known as Hernandez Hall, this building will provide approximately 100,000 square feet for modern undergraduate teaching laboratories, classrooms, teaching support, graduate research laboratories and offices. It is slated to open early this year.
  • Newell Hall Learning Commons — The renovations to the 28,000-square-foot Newell Hall, originally built in 1910, will transform the existing historic facility into a 21st century learning space centrally located on campus to serve all University of Florida students when it opens this spring.
  • The UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital — A $415 million project and expected to be completed in December 2017, these two hospitals will give rise to the Southeast’s most advanced home for the care of patients with heart, vascular and neurological illnesses.
  • The Stephen C. O’Connell Center — This recently completed $64.5 million project has transformed an iconic community and sports venue, first opened in 1980, into a premiere facility befitting the community it serves.
  • The Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence — Destined to be the flagship building for the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, this 84,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art research and education environment expected to open in 2018 will feature freshman design labs and senior capstone design courses for all departments, faculty and student “collaboratory” spaces, and a telepresence lab to build 21st century communication and networking skills.

Last year saw an equally impressive amount of construction on campus, including the striking new expansion of the Reitz Student Union and the completions of Cypress Hall, which includes accommodations for students with higher levels of physical disability support needs, some of whom are veterans, and Infinity Hall, home of the nation’s first entrepreneurial-based academic residential community.

Additionally, this past fall, UF rolled out its Strategic Development Plan, a road map for how the university and the community can grow during the next several decades to become truly preeminent together.

A series of public meetings during which campus leaders and planners gathered input from the community resulted in a plan that will guide us toward positive growth while retaining all of the attributes that make Gainesville truly unique.

The Strategic Development Plan will allow all of us to raise the stature of both the city and the community by capitalizing on the intensive comprehensiveness for which UF is known.

A look at other well-regarded universities around the country shows that the best have a truly symbiotic relationship with their communities. I believe that kind of relationship already exists between our campus and our community and is destined to grow even stronger.

From the city of Gainesville’s wonderful new Depot Park to the university’s numerous new facilities, Gainesville and the University of Florida are positively humming with excitement. I am thrilled to be part of it, and I think you will be, too.

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