By Kimberly Bogers
Many things have changed on Pensacola State College’s Pensacola campus since its creation in 1957: students have come and gone, old teachers have retired, new teachers have arrived, degree programs have been added and organizations have been created. Very few things have stayed the same over the years.
However, one of the things on the Pensacola campus that has remained consistent is the Baars building, also known as building 1. In the not-so-distant future, this is going to change. PSC just recently received $8 million in state funding to go towards the destruction and reconstruction of the Baars building.
Dr. Edwards Meadows, president of PSC, explained that the destruction of the 5 wings of the Baars building will most likely take place in staggered phases in order to reduce disruptions as much as possible for students and faculty who utilize the current building.
About 9,500 students per year have classes in the Baars building. During the reconstruction, any classes that take place in parts of the building that are being worked on will be relocated.
“Some classes will be moved to building 4, as well as the science building. Other classes in the final phases of construction will be housed in mobile classrooms.”
Once construction begins, it is hoped that students and faculty will be able to reoccupy the new building within 18-20 months.
The new, 80,000 square-foot building will house a variety of high-tech programs, including computer sciences, aviation maintenance, mathematics, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing.
Even though the building itself will change considerably, its 60-year-old name will remain the same.
“The name Baars will remain a part of the building name, as the Baars family was primarily responsible for ensuring that the majority of the land where the Pensacola Campus is currently located could be acquired,” said Meadows.
Mary Ellison Baars was the matriarch of the Baars family back in 1956, when the building was constructed, and it is primarily named after her. Baars and her family played a pivotal role in making property available for the college’s Pensacola campus when it was first being developed.
PSC faculty and staff are eager for the elderly building to be demolished, rebuilt and upgraded.
“The building has more than done it’s service to the college,” said Greg Bloxom, who has been teaching various math classes in the Baars building since 2003. “It passed its prime many years ago. The heating and AC are touch and go. The mold in the ceilings have us all coughing and sneezing and the sidewalks are cracking. The Baars building is approaching an unsafe status.”
“I think that reconstructing building 1 is a great idea and a much needed renovation,” said La Rita Brigham, coordinator of the Pensacola campus L.I.F.E. Fitness Center, which is currently housed in the Baars building.
“Our plans are to relocated the L.I.F.E. Fitness Center into a new facility behind or close to Hartsell Arena,” said Meadows. “This will occur prior to beginning construction of the Baars Building. Moving the Life Fitness Center has been a part of our campus master plan for several years.”
Brigham is excited for the Center to be relocated and upgraded. “I am completely thrilled that the Fitness center will received all the updates that we desperately need in order to offer the students the opportunity to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle while receiving an education here at Pensacola State.”
Another organization that is currently been housed in the Baars building is the Arc Gateway Program for Adult Learning and Support (PALS), which gives persons with disabilities the opportunity to learn in a college environment.
“We believe Dr. Meadows and the staff at Pensacola State College are committed to excellence for both the students and our community,” said Dondie Roper, the director of the PALS program. “In order to deliver on this commitment, PSC has chosen to replace one of its oldest buildings, the Baars Building. While this is a costly endeavor, the enhanced learning offered through high-tech options, the potential financial savings of an energy-efficient building and the smaller footprint left by the college are priceless.”
Since the headquarters for the PALS program is located in the Baars building, it will have to be transported to another location on campus before the demolition begins.
“The PALS program will be housed either in mobile buildings or where we used to house the PACE Center for Girls,” said Meadows. “We will work with the PALS staff regarding their preference.”
Even though Roper explained that the PALS program has felt honored to be housed in the most legendary building on the Pensacola campus, the staff is looking forward to the changes and improvements.
“Over the years that the Baars building has been in use, many things have changed, including technology, energy efficiency and handicap access. A new building will provide facilities that are safe, comfortable, and equipped with the latest technology. We hope to continue to be housed in the new building.”
Bloxom has been waiting to see a new Baars building for quite awhile now, and is rather skeptical that the reconstruction will happen. “We’ve been promised a new building since before I was hired. I will believe the new building when I see it.”
“Aside from having outlived its usefulness, the new Baars Science and Technology Building will house many state-of-the-art facilities for new programs like cyber-security,” said Meadows. “It will ensure we continue to fulfill our mission to help train and educate our future workforce.”
Currently, the plan is for construction of the new Baars building to begin in the summer or fall of 2017. The total project cost is estimated at $25 million.