Ground was broken Wednesday, June 8, on Phase II of Pensacola State College’s STEM facility ─ the Bear, Jones, Moore, and Reeves Center for Math and Advanced Technology.
Site work on the 46,133-square-foot facility ─ estimated to cost between $22 million to $25 million ─ began in January. The building is tentatively scheduled for completion by December 2023.
“The long-awaited groundbreaking for Phase II has finally arrived,’’ said PSC President Ed Meadows. “This facility will not only provide instructional space for our math department but will also allow us to expand our facilities for cybersecurity.”
The building’s name pays tribute to four Pensacola families – the Bear Family Foundation, Jo and Bill Jones, the late Pete Moore Family and Jim Reeves ─ who have collectively given $1 million to fund STEM-related scholarships at the College.
Phase I – the Baars Technology Building ─ officially opened in April 2021. The $15 million 23,839-square-foot building is currently home to STEM programs such as cybersecurity, computer science and math.
The Bear, Jones, Moore, and Reeves Center for Math and Advanced Technology will house cybersecurity, math, advanced technology and other high-tech programs.
The facility also will include a third-floor connector linking Phase I and Phase II buildings. A rooftop terrace that can be used as an event space is also part of the construction plan.
Speaking at Wednesday’s groundbreaking were numerous Northwest Florida dignitaries including Sen. Doug Broxson of the Florida Senate, Reps. Michelle Salzman and Alex Andrade of the Florida House of Representatives, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson IV, Escambia County District 4 Commissioner Robert Bender, Century Mayor Ben Boutwell and Collier Merrill representing Triumph Gulf Coast.
Margie Moore, chair of the PSC Board of Trustees, also spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It’s always exciting to watch our College grow, but it’s especially thrilling to see this project get started,’’ Moore said. “It is the culmination of eight years of hard work by the legislative delegation as well as local partners.”
Along with state funding, a nearly $12 million grant will be used to fund construction of Phase II. The $11,998,919 grant comes from Triumph Gulf Coast, the organization charged by the state of Florida with distributing the $1.5 billion settlement from BP stemming from the 2010 oil spill.
The State of Florida previously gave the College $15.4 million for the construction project and is expected to commit another $3.5 million later this year.
“We are so very fortunate to have a legislative delegation that placed this facility as one of their highest priorities this past legislative session resulting in PSC receiving its entire building allocation in one year,’’ Meadows said. “PSC has been blessed with tremendous support from many sources and I cannot but help believe it is because of the job our faculty and staff do for our students.”
Money from the grant also will be used to purchase equipment, supplies, certificate and student fee waivers, recruiting, technology and salaries for Cybersecurity/IT programs.
Meadows praised the state and local legislative delegation and Triumph Gulf Coast for appropriating funds for the facility.
“We’ve been attempting for nearly 10 years to fully replace an antiquated building that served us well in the past,” Meadows said. “We now have the funds to not only complete construction, but to grow, accelerate and expand our existing IT and cybersecurity programs, as well as support our mathematics program. I think this is truly a huge shot in the arm for PSC and the community.”
Sen. Broxson, a PSC alumnus who led the legislative efforts, called the groundbreaking “a great day for all us. When I first came here, I didn’t really know what this College was about. But it was a great experience for me. God bless this College and God bless this community.”
Salzman, a U.S. Army veteran, is also a PSC alumnus, though the college was known as Pensacola Junior College when she and Broxson attended.
“In 1999, I came back to Pensacola homeless, I was as a disabled combat vet with no college and no job and six months pregnant with my second child,’’ she said. “I went to the (veterans’ facility) on the (Pensacola) campus and said ‘I’m a veteran. I need a job. I have to do something. I need to have a future. This College gave me hope – not just hope but a path to the future, a path to a career.”
Reeves, who helped recruit the other PSC supporters whose family name will be on the new building, said once people understand the mission, vision, success and reach of PSC, they often become eager supporters.
“It’s a great college and I’ve said it many times,’’ he said, turning to Meadows. “When we sit down with people, we have a strong story to share.”
Florida Architects designed the Phase I and Phase II buildings. Ajax Corp was the Phase I general contractor. The Morette Company is the Phase II general contractor.