by JAMIE CREAMER
Auburn University’s Board of Trustees approved three significant agriculture-related items at it Nov. 20 meeting, one of which will dramatically transform Auburn’s Ag Hill in the next few years.
In a unanimous vote, the board gave the go-ahead to a new Agricultural Sciences Research Building that would house the College of Agriculture’s departments of entomology and plant pathology, horticulture and crop, soil and environmental sciences and an Interdisciplinary Science Building that the College of Sciences and Mathematics’ biological sciences and geosciences departments would occupy.
Those departments have called Funchess Hall home for decades. Their relocation would leave Funchess vacant, and, as called for in the university’s Comprehensive Master Plan, the South College Street building that for 55 years has served as the unofficial eastern border of Ag Hill would be leveled.
Rightly so, said Dan King, associate vice president for Facilities at Auburn, in presenting the two construction projects to the trustees.
“Funchess Hall is in a deteriorated state and has outlived its useful life,” King said.
The demolition of Funchess would open up a prime piece of real estate that would be “a great site” for a state-of-the-art academic building that could be a tool in recruiting top faculty, King noted. He did not specify which college or school on campus would benefit from such a facility.
The Agricultural Sciences Research Building to which the college’s three departments would move would be situated on West Samford Avenue, about three blocks southwest of Comer Hall and Ag Hill. The targeted site is adjacent to the USDA-owned property at the corner of West Samford and South Donahue and is where the horticulture department’s Paterson Greenhouses now stand, so that complex would have to be relocated.
The board’s approval of the project sets in motion the process for selecting a building architect and construction manager. The board resolution calls for the project to be financed by a combination of university funds, state funding and gifts and stipulates that if sufficient funds haven’t been raised by November 2018, the project will be withdrawn and resubmitted when funding is available.
In the two other matters of special interest to the College of Agriculture, the Board of Trustees:
- Sanctioned phase two of the Department of Poultry Sciences’ Poultry Research Farm relocation project.
- Signed off on a new bachelor of science degree that will give the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology its first undergraduate program in 18 years.
The Poultry Research Farm has been located for 40 years just south of Auburn’s main campus, on land that the university now intends to incorporate into the Auburn Research Park. Thus, the farm is to be moved to Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station–managed property about four miles north of campus. The north Auburn campus is also the site of the industry-backed $7.1 million Poultry and Animal Nutrition Center that opened in 2012.
Phase one of the $10 million research farm relocation project will include the construction of three new poultry houses on the site, and work is set to begin in spring 2016. In phase two, two additional multipurpose poultry houses and one administrative building that will provide classroom space, meeting rooms, offices and a locker room required for enforcing biosecurity control protocols will be built. The poultry industry is providing major financial support for the project.
In addition to voting for the relocation project to proceed, the board also authorized the hiring of Birmingham architectural firm Ghafari Associates as architect for the Phase two facilities.
The new interdisciplinary Applied Biotechnology degree program the board endorsed will be administered by the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology but will be interdepartmental.
“A faculty group from several of our departments will oversee the program and offer input on the curriculum, and courses will be taught by faculty from different departments, but all within the College of Agriculture,” Paul Patterson, associate dean for instruction for the college, said. “By comparison, the B.S. in Environmental Science at Auburn is an interdepartmental program that is administered by the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, with input from the colleges of Sciences and Mathematics and Engineering.”
Auburn’s Applied Biotechnology degree program will be the first of its kind at an Alabama university. It will be designed to prepare students for careers in the fields of biotechnology, agriculture and pharmaceutics.
The new B.S. degree now awaits review and approval by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and is expected to begin fall semester 2016. An undergraduate degree has not been offered by entomology and plant pathology since 1998.